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In the national interest: Look for the talent within

Most public sector finance directors are looking into a dark hole of spending cuts for the next four years and beyond. In the local government sector, 26 percent is being removed from national funding for local government in the Comprehensive Spending Review period and, in my own authority, Hounslow, 23 percent will be taken out of the revenue budget for the next four years.

Faced with this awesome task, the temptation is to reach for external help to support local management to deal with the difficult issues of organisation resizing. However, this could be an expensive option, which may not utilise the potential of the in-house staff to move the organisation forward. In my own experience, I have often found that those who make the most imaginative and lasting contribution to change programmes are part of the organisation already. Often, individuals faced with significant difficulties then demonstrate their latent capabilities.

It is with this in mind that we have set up our own internal transformation programme. We have work streams covering property, procurement, fees and charges, ICT, back office support, commissioning, services to schools and specific departmental restructuring. This programme will engage more than 50 of the most senior staff in the organisation. It is designed to provide a framework for internally generated transformation that can deliver a revitalised and more nimble organisation in this age of austerity.

Ultimately, if our public sector organisations are to survive and prosper, we must have faith in the capacity to meet the challenge.

Staff who can step up to the mark will be rewarded by becoming future leaders in this post-austerity world.

For finance directors and other top managers, a key challenge is to create a supportive and competitive environment, where staff at all levels can drive public sector organisations forward in a positive fashion.

Stephen Fitzgerald is finance director of the Borough of Hounslow

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