The View From … Local Government
“WE WON’T BE ABLE TO AFFORD ALL OUR EXISTING SERVICES,” Becky Hellard FCCA, Director of Finance & Resources, Liverpool City Council.
Government grant funding for Liverpool City Council is being reduced by 56.6% in the period 2010/11 to 2016/17 – and government grant makes up 80% of our income. Three years ago our budget was £723m and it will be down to £550m by the end of this year and under £400m in three years. We can’t get down to this level of spending by achieving efficiencies. Ours is a very sane organisation – it is not as the image has sometimes been portrayed in the past.
For the next three years we will not do an annual budget and this year we will do a three year budget. We will not do a hatchet job on services. It will be priority based and logical. Based on our current costs and current service delivery models we would have no money for our discretionary services, such as leisure services, parks, regeneration, skills training and culture. But there are a lot of clever people around who can change the way things are delivered, so there is a very fundamental re-engineering of our mandatory and discretionary services taking place.
Every day is so different. I have very different parts to my role. I support our elected mayor and the cabinet members. So I am in regular contact with them as well as other members, supporting the translation of their political priorities into plans. I have a statutory role safeguarding public money, as you’d expect
I lead and manage my directorate, taking responsibility for finance in the broader sense and for procurement and legal services. I also work with the other directors and I am a corporate director, leading on financial management and the budget.
I qualified in the private sector with Coopers & Lybrand, but I have mainly worked in the public sector. This has given me the best of both worlds, managing the public sector as a business. It’s great because I don’t come at it with a focus on public sector accounting rules. I am really pleased that I went about my career in this way.
A lot of my role is about getting real financial information, to make the right business decisions. There are a lot of analytics going on. We are the first local authority in the country to do a full analysis of every service to establish which are mandatory. That is a massive job. We are sharing this with all the other core cities in the country.
We are going more into financial deals. Liverpool is filling the gap as banks have retreated in terms of loan finance and investment in regeneration projects, ensuring regeneration of the city moves forward and getting a good return on our money.
I am seriously into physical exercise. I am a serious Dales cyclist. I run most nights and I do a lot of work in the gym. One of my passions is riding my horse. And I co-drive in road rallying. But I commute four hours every day from my home in the Dales. That only just leaves me time to sleep.