Requiring a council’s section 151 officer to report to the chief executive and be a member of the senior management team misses the point in a number of areas
Simply because the actual s151 officer is not a member of the authority’s senior management team does not mean that there is not suitable representation at the highest levels, giving the sort of financial advice and guidance that CIPFA has in mind.
For example, I hold the position of both deputy chief executive and director of finance and sit on the Essex CC management board.
The section 151 officer, in turn, reports to me as part of my senior management team. This is an arrangement repeated in a number of other authorities.
Furthermore, the size and scale of an organisation such as Essex CC and the massive process of change that it is going through at the moment means that such responsibilities are likely to be shared by a number of senior finance officers, not simply by one particular individual.
Such is the nature of modern local government and the complexity of the challenges it faces that key strands of work are driven by other formal arrangements.
For example, overseeing our transformation journey is a dedicated delivery board upon which the s151 officer sits. I would argue that this gives the s151 officer an even greater say over both the day-to-day and future running of the organisation.
It is important also to understand that the s151 officer in Essex has unrestricted access at any time to any senior management team meeting that she wishes to attend, or indeed to any officer or member in the authority.
Ultimately, it must be left to each local authority to decide their own internal management arrangements and structures, based upon the particular needs and priorities of the organisation.
Nick Bell, deputy chief executive, Essex CC