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FRONT LINE FIRST - FINANCE

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The future of Scottish services has never been so vigorously debated. The Scottish local government bill and the lo...
The future of Scottish services has never been so vigorously debated. The Scottish local government bill and the local government white paper have fuelled the discussions.

Against this backdrop, 300 professionals and councillors from local government, health, education and audit convened at the biggest Scottish public finance event of the year, the CIPFA Scottish Conference.

Around 70% of delegates surveyed believe the local government bill will achieve its aim of providing a framework for better, more responsive services. And the white paper is widely tipped to include options for replacing existing capital finance constraints on councils.

The bill includes giving each council a general power of well-being. There are many financial management implications, not least that councils should report costs and income in a way consistent with other service providers. The best value accounting code of practice provides such a basis in England and Wales. CIPFA has advocated a similar approach in Scotland.

More money is flowing into capital investment, but controls on capital expenditure must be overhauled. The Executive has already responded to the call from the Scottish Parliament local government committee to develop a new capital finance system, announcing in the white paper it would replace the over-prescriptive capital expenditure system with more flexible prudential guidelines.

CIPFA Scotland is soon to road test a prudential framework for capital financing with nine councils, and will be pressing the Executive and Parliament to adopt BVACOP as the accounting standard for best value. CIPFA Scotland is ideally placed to help Parliament and the Executive develop more effective financial management, while assisting those in the front line deliver services in a more efficient and cost effective way.

Ian Doig

Director, CIPFA Scotland

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