Local authority managers face constant pressure to reduce their costs, to improve their services, and to demonstrate that they have done so, says the Institute of Public Finance.
'Providing this detailed exchange of information is the main mission of the CIPFA Finance Benchmarking Clubs. These Clubs provide a unique opportunity for local authority finance managers to compare their performance and share their experience with other authorities, and to identify opportunities for improvement. This is why 290 local authorities took part in 2002, and 80% of the 2001 members re-joined in 2002'.
The main focus of the Clubs is on exchanging information about costs, workload, and other detailed measures of performance. Their principal end product is a statistical report comparing the authority with other members of the Club. Service quality and processes are not so easy to compare with numbers, but these issues are addressed via the exchange of written information on selected topics, which is collated and circulated to all members. In addition, each club also has a series of review meetings once the statistical reports have been distributed. These meetings mark the beginning of the transition from the benchmarking of costs to the benchmarking of processes, systems, organisation structures and quality initiatives.
The Finance Benchmarking Clubs were launched in 1998 as part of the wider portfolio of IPF activities which IPF measure, and have expanded over the years to cover virtually all the main financial services. In 2003, eleven Clubs are offered: Accountancy, Audit, Payroll, Creditors, Debtors, Cashiers, Treasury and Debt Management, Council Tax, Non-Domestic Rates, Benefits Administration and Pensions Administration.
1) IPF is the wholly owned commercial arm of CIPFA providing a comprehensive range of services including advisory and consortia services, information, training and consultancy, property and software and European and international services that are utilised by over 2,000 public and private sector bodies.
2) The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy is one of the leading professional accountancy bodies in the UK and the only one that specialises in the public services. It is responsible for the education and training of professional accountants and for their regulation through the setting and monitoring of professional standards. Uniquely among the professional accountancy bodies in the UK, CIPFA has responsibility for setting accounting standards for a significant part of the economy, namely local government. CIPFA's members work (often at the most senior level) in public service bodies, in the national audit agencies and major accountancy firms. They are respected throughout for their high technical and ethical standards and professional integrity.