Slough council approves finance department restructuring plans

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Slough Borough Council has approved plans to restructure its finance department to improve capacity and capability and address a ‘significant weakness’ in the function.

The local authority has been heavily dependent on interim staff within its core finance team, as only around 50% of staff in the department are permanent employees of Slough Borough Council.

A finance department restructuring report presented to cabinet on June 20 set out proposals to place staff in more permanent roles.

The report presented proposals for the hiring of six new officers, including two deputy directors – one overseeing financial management and the other (deputy s151) covering strategic and corporate finance. These two assistant director positions will replace the role of assistant director of finance and commerce.

The restructuring was originally recommended in October 2021 by CIPFA in a review of local government finances, which highlighted the need to improve the financial capacity of the authority.

Cllr Rob Anderson, cabinet member responsible for financial oversight and board assets, told the cabinet meeting this week: ‘The CIPFA report and the external auditors all showed that we had a material weakness in our finance function , and we had to fix it as a matter of priority. »

The council is £760m in debt and has been struggling financially for some time. In July, the new (acting) Chief Financial Officer, Steven Mair, issued a Section 114 notice.

The CIPFA report and the external auditors all showed that we had a significant weakness in our finance function, and we needed to address it as a matter of priority.

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Unsustainable workforce

The finance department’s restructuring report said: “Current levels of permanent staffing are unsustainable and potentially impact the health and well-being of the team and the board’s ability to recruit and to retain staff.

The report also pointed out that the recruitment of new employees would “bring more leadership, direction and capability to the (finance) function and organization”.

Anderson added: “The restructuring will not only give us capacity, but also capacity within the finance function, so that the things that we know have gone wrong over the past two years are not repeated.

“To put us in a position where we are no longer fighting fires, but in fact making proactive, sensible decisions to move the council forward.”

£600m asset sales

At the same meeting, the firm discussed a report to sell half of its £1.2 billion in assets to ensure the council’s financial viability in the near future.

The report states: “A staged asset disposal program could deliver capital inflows of approximately £600m over the next five years to fund capitalization orientations, repay external loans and reduce borrowings to sustainable levels by April 1, 2027.”

He outlined plans to set up a new cabinet committee, which would proceed with the sale of any property valued at £1million or more.

Both reports follow an Article 25 report issued in March 2022 and the dismissal of the chief executive for gross misconduct also in March 2022.


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