On the frontline: CIPFA’s new president, Mike Barnes

Mike Barnes doesn’t enjoy a particularly high profile, but he wields considerable influence behind the scenes. Harsh? Not really. Barnes may, for instance, head the Audit Commission’s technical department, but you won’t find a mention of him on its website. Nevertheless as the newly installed president of CIPFA, Barnes’ public profile is set to grow and match his influence.

Barnes has enjoyed a decent reputation in the public sector for many years. He has been with the commission through a period of immense change.

A decade ago, the body was a shadow of its current incarnation. Its remit has expanded almost exponentially to stretch beyond its traditional health and local government base to take in social housing and many of the government’s agencies.

While the commission has seen several chairmen during that period, and survived the departure of its long-serving chief executive Sir Andrew Foster last year, Barnes has been a mainstay. Indeed, he is the commission’s longest-serving senior manager.

CIPFA’s new president has been a member since 1973, serving on council from 1992. At the institute’s agm in Brighton last month, he stepped up from vice-president to president, and while Barnes himself might not shout about it, his CV shows just how influential he has been over the last decade.

Since 1996, he has been a member of the Financial Reporting Advisory Board to HM Treasury and a member of the Accounting Standard’s Board’s public sector committee. Until stepping down last month, he had been a member of the Financial Reporting Council for six years.

His new role at CIPFA will allow him to draw on his experience at the Audit Commission, where he led the commission’s contribution to technical and professional developments affecting auditing and financial reporting – including responsibility for more than 30 of the commission’s national publications. He is also extremely familiar with CIPFA headquarters, given that he once led the institute’s audit activities.

Taking over as president, Barnes said: ‘I am proud and privileged to be elected president of CIPFA. It is a great honour, and I will do my best to act both as ambassador for the institute and as a champion of its work.’

And he faces several challenges, though his reputation as a ‘hard-working details man’, according to one recent profile, will serve him well.

Chief among those challenges is ensuring CIPFA’s voice continues to be heard.

Although CIPFA is dwarfed by the ICAEW, ACCA and CIMA, it plays an important specialist role and, by working alongside the institute’s chief executive Steve Freer, Barnes needs to ensure that this is recognised.

And then there is the small matter of continuing professional development.

It hasn’t proved quite as controversial with the CIPFA membership as the ICAEW has found it – but that doesn’t mean making it run smoothly and inclusively will be an easy task.

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