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FINANCE SUPPLEMENT - COMMENT

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A brave new dawn and the meaning of targets...
A brave new dawn and the meaning of targets

As finance professionals from across the public sector gather in Manchester for the Chartered Institute for Public Finance & Accountancy annual conference, one question will dominate: the future of the institute itself.

In October, members will vote on whether they want to see CIPFA merge with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. Would this be a brave new dawn for the accountancy profession, or the end of a strong voice for public sector accountants? We canvass the views of members and ask CIPFA chief executive Steve Freer why, after the failed attempts of the past, consolidation should now get the go-ahead.

Another major theme for delegates will be government efficiency targets. Councils have submitted savings plans for 2005-06. How can councils become more efficient and, more to the point, prove it? Mark McLaughlin questions the value of government targets and asks what the effect will be on the people councils exist to serve.

Turning round the finances at Croydon LBC is one of the toughest challenges in local government finance. We catch up with Nathan Elvery nine months into the job to find out whether the borough is out of the terminal ward.

We also profile David Smith, director of finance and IT at Wigan MBC, a man who knows a thing or two about sport as well as the distribution of funding.

Are local authority pension funds missing a trick by not investing more heavily in property? The growth of indirect property investment arguably makes it easier for councils to dip their toes in the water, although some funds continue to favour the direct route. We look at the pros and cons.

Finally, Tim Stretton has some novel ideas for new local taxes - available free of charge to the Conservatives or any other party looking for a policy to adopt on this thorny issue.

Any comments on this issue? E-mail the editor: kerry.lorimer@emap.com

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