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Quadrupling of finance peer reviewers needed

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The LGA needs an almost fourfold increase in its contingent of finance officers willing to undertake peer challenges.

Its resources board heard on Friday that the worsening financial environment for councils has led to both increased demands for peer challenges in this field, where expertise is scarce, and to a need to alter the reviews’ content.

A board paper said the LGA had only 27 people on its database of peer reviewers who hold a Chartered Instituted of Public Finance & Accountancy qualification.

“The aim needs to be to get this up initially to around 50 and then to 80-100,” the report said.

“However this is a substantial proportion of the pool of people currently working in senior finance roles in local government and progress has so far been slow.”

The LGA will try to increase recruitment by promoting the professional benefits of becoming a peer reviewer.

Pressures on council budgets have meant that the nature of advice sought by councils from financial peer reviews has changed, the report said.

Most of the content of the current financial peer review was developed before the recession, the report said, adding: “Local authorities now face four major financial challenges they have never faced before on the same scale.”

These were: unprecedented reductions in resources and spending pressure; incentives replacing grant distribution based on needs; new models of working with the need for financial input to business cases and project plans, and cross-organisational working where a single council no longer controls all the money or decisions involved.

Finance reviews could become based on how the whole council managed its finances, instead of being restricted to the financial management discipline, the report suggested.

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