Public sector must be resilient, says CIPFA president

12 Jul 17

The public sector must remain resilient as austerity looks likely to continue well into the next decade, the CIPFA president said in his opening address to conference this morning. 

Andy Burns - CIPFA president - CIPFA 2017

Andrew Burns, who is director of finance and resources at Staffordshire County Council, said organisations must have "the resilience to deliver annual savings and manage significant financial shocks, while still pursuing ambitious goals and promoting prosperity".

He praised the responses of the public sector to atrocities this year, such as the recent Grenfell Tower fire and the bombing after a pop concert in Manchester.

"There have been brilliant responses from public servants, politicians and the emergency services, and superb examples of preparedness and resilience," he told delegates in Manchester, at CIPFA's annual conference. 

Burns defined resilience as: "Staying viable, stable, flexible and effective in the medium-term, in the face of growing service demand, tightening funding and an increasingly complex and unpredictable financial future."

He explained to delegates: "We must work to ensure we build resilient medium-term plans that cover all aspects of planning and operations and that we are quick to identify and respond to the warning signs of financial stress."

These medium-term plans would need to focus on capital investment programmes and balance sheets, not just revenue budgets, he added.

Resilience is also supported by services working together, Burns explained.

He said he was passionate about "better alignment and collaboration between public services and integrated reporting, focusing on the value created by public services not just on financial outcomes".

He believed the great financial pressure that social services placed on public services could be allieviated by better joint working.

Burns reminded delegates: "Of course, everything we do now is set against the backdrop of Brexit".

But he said while there were "times of challenge" ahead there were also those of "opportunity".

"For all the difficulties we face in delivering the best public services, there are just as many exciting opportunities to improve lives of people, the places they live and their prosperity," he said.

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