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A district council s151 officer speaks

  • Comment

As a Section 151 officer, I report to a director of resources and do not sit on the council’s management team, although I am able to attend their meetings.

I have regular one-to-ones with the chief executive and regularly discuss financial issues with the leader of the council, and I believe my views are valued.

However, I do have concerns that key discussions and decisions at a corporate level can be taken without my involvement; for example, I am not invited to certain away-days for the management and cabinet.

I believe that the role of the chief finance officer (CFO) is undervalued in local government. Central government departments have taken steps to ensure that there is a qualified financial director on their boards and I think councils should follow suit.

It does not make sense that two statutory officers, the s151 officer and the monitoring officer, do not have to be on the senior management board.

I think that the role has changed in emphasis and that many chief executives and directors believe that they have sufficient financial expertise to run a local authority.

For too long, the finance director was seen as a ‘blocker’ of corporate objectives and I believe that many local authorities have taken the opportunity to effectively demote the finance director to a second- or third-tier officer.

There will be a considerable reduction in local authority budgets over the next few years, and I believe that it will be important for the CFO to be significantly involved in corporate management and decision-making.

Unfortunately, I suspect that many senior ranking officers are in denial about the impact of budget reductions .

Our interviewee asked to remain anonymous

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