The senior finance leaders, employed in the NHS, local, and central government, outlined what they would like to hear from the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement on November 23rd. Top of the list was moving focus from short-termism to long-term stability.
Manj Kalar, ACCA’s head of public sector policy said that the government must commit to achieving long-term stability for public sector finances.
“Short-term planning and budget allocation is not conducive to delivering efficiencies in the sector in the longer term. Annual budget allocations and spending plans encourage a ‘spend it, or lose it’ attitude which does little to promote longer term strategic thinking.”
Finance leaders would like to see three to five-year commitments on budget allocations which will enable financial managers to make long-term strategic decisions which are far more likely to deliver value for the taxpayer, added Kalar.
Along with thinking long term, the government must approach funding for public services in a more strategic and holistic manner, she said.
Another suggestion is for the government to prioritise investment in digital services in order for the public sector to deliver efficiency savings in the mid to long-term, with investment in training and development also required to drive up digital capability and capacity across the public sector.
‘Our members have raised serious concerns with regard to further spending reductions impacting negatively on capacity. This could delay or prevent the delivery of digital services which aim to enhance efficiency across the sector,” Kalar said.
The finance professionals also highlighted the pressing need for a change in culture, to a focus on outcomes rather than process.
Kalar adds: “Performance management across the public sector needs to have a greater focus on outcomes achieved. Greater innovation in the public sector will be key to delivering efficiencies and maximising value. A greater emphasis on outcomes achieved versus process adherence will help to drive up innovation in the sector.”