CIPFA revises financial resilience index plans following feedback

4 Dec 18

CIPFA has refined its plans for a financial resilience index for councils and is poised to rate bodies on a “suite of indicators” following a consultation with the sector.

It has also responded to concerns about the initial choice of indicators, updating the selection and will offer authorities an advanced viewing of results.

Plans for a financial resilience index were put forward by CIPFA in the summer. It is being designed to offer the sector some external guidance on their financial position.

CIPFA hailed the “unprecedented level of interest” in the consultation.

Responses were received from 189 parties, including individual local authorities, umbrella groups and auditors. Some respondents called for a more “forward-looking” assessment and raised fears over the possibility of “naming and shaming” councils.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said with local government facing “unprecedented financial challenges” and weaknesses in public audit systems, the institute was stepping in to provide a leadership role in the public interest.

“Following the feedback we have received, we have modified and strengthened the tool so it will be even more helpful for local authorities with deteriorating financial positions,” he said.

“The tool will sit alongside CIPFA’s planned Financial Management Code, which aims to support good practice in the planning and execution of sustainable finances.”

CIPFA is now planning to introduce a “reserves depletion time” category as one of the indicators. This shows the length of time a council’s reserves will last if they deplete their reserves at the same rate as over the past three years.

The consultation response document, published today, said this new category showed that “generally most councils have either not depleted their reserves or their depletion has been low”.

“The tool will not now provide, as originally envisaged, a composite weighted index but within the suite of indicators it will include a red, amber, green (RAG) alert of specific proximity to insufficient reserve given recent trajectories,” it said.

It also highlighted the broad support from the sector for the creation of the index. “There was little dissent over the fact that CIPFA is doing the right thing in drawing attention to a matter of high national concern,” it said.

“Most respondents agreed to the need for transparency – but a sizable number had concerns over the possibly negative impacts of adverse indicators and many councils wanted to see their results prior to publication.”

As such, CIPFA plans to provide resilience measurements first to the local authorities and their auditors via the section 151 officer rather than publishing openly.

The new indicators will remain under review and subject to feedback, CIPFA said.

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