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FRONT LINE FIRST - FINANCE

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Over the Past six weeks Hertfordshire CC has been a pathfinder authority for Comprehensive Performance Assessment. ...
Over the Past six weeks Hertfordshire CC has been a pathfinder authority for Comprehensive Performance Assessment. The preparation and inspection process has come to an end and everyone involved is under pressure to spell out just how it was for them.

For finance, a key part of the process is the audit assessment carried out by the external auditor. This uses a framework of arbitrary but precise gradings. When compared to the recognised audit regime, the framework has the potential to lead to surprises and may provide a guide to issues which can be addressed in self-assessments.

It is very important to discuss the assessment with auditors before the final audit evaluation is passed to the Comprehensive Assessment Team. Clearly some councils conduct their affairs very differently and auditors may have their own particular models in mind when making their assessments.

My understanding of CPA is that a council is doing well if its members are setting clear priorities based on the information and intelligence available and members are aware of their responsibility for ensuring the managers deliver the administration's policies and promises.

The authority has to show it is learning from service users and partners, consultation, performance indicators, its various inspections and its own experiences, and as a result its resources follow priorities. Policy development and the budget process, performance management and budget monitoring have to go hand in hand.

It is in this area finance faces its biggest challenge. These links will not be evident in every council. If a CPA assessment is poor because the assessors cannot see evidence that the links are real, members will be asking chief officers' why these fundamentals have been missed.

Chris Sweeney

Director of finance, Hertfordshire CC

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