Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy chief executive Rob Whiteman has said the organisation has been “positively blown away” by responses to its controversial proposal for a financial resilience index for councils.
Cipfa, in July, launched a consultation on an index to track councils’ financial resilience with a view to providing “robust independent challenge and support”.
However, the proposal, which would see councils scored against six indicators of financial resilience and coded using a traffic-light system presented in a table, was widely criticised.
The Local Government Association said the proposed index “would be extremely unhelpful as it requires choices about relative weightings and could too easily lead to inappropriate judgements”.
County council chief executives and leaders said the approach would be a “blunt instrument” with limited benefit to local government, while the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers revealed it had “serious misgivings about whether a simple set of scoring metrics can produce a meaningful assessment of an authority’s financial health”.
Mr Whiteman, who has defended the approach and insisted Cipfa is not aiming to “name and shame” local authorities, today welcomed an “unprecedented” level of response to the consultation, which closed on 24 August.
He said: “We are positively blown away by the scale and quality of the responses we have received, which shows the importance of the subject and that debate is much needed.
“The many thoughtful and insightful comments will help us create a tool that works for individual local authorities and strengthens the sector.”
Mr Whiteman insisted Cipfa was right to prompt debate “as a body representing professionals who owe a direct duty to the public to act in their interest”.
“Cipfa will always play a leading role in lobbying for more resources for councils, but the consultation has demonstrated that accountants also play a unique role at times to provide uncomfortable challenge,” he added.
The organisation has said it will publish its analysis of responses and clarification on the next stage in the process by early October.