The runaway winner of our Accountant of the Year Award is Conrad Hall of the
London Borough of Lambeth, for his part in turning around a borough that has
been infamous in the past for its culture of financial mismanagement.
Hall joined Lambeth as chief accountant in May 2003, inheriting slow
accounting processes and an uncertain overall financial position. At that time,
the accounts for 2001/02 had not yet been completed and many items on the
balance sheet could not be evidenced or supported.
Before Hall’s arrival, every set of accounts for 20 years had been qualified.
The 2003/04 accounts were the first to be unqualified, with the result that
deadlines have now been brought forward. The accounts for this year were
completed in 11 weeks, one month ahead of the statutory deadline.
Our judges said: ‘Conrad was the leader by a million miles. He showed huge
initiative and leadership.’
Hall is not afraid to risk being unpopular but has won the respect of his
colleagues even when they do not like what he says. Lambeth now has a mid-year
financial review in which each department has to justify the basis for its
budget, linked to the council’s overall priorities. This has allowed the council
to deliver lower tax and better services.
Richard Hornby, assistant director of revenues and business services, says:
‘Conrad has introduced a climate of accountability. We don’t overspend, we now
know how much we have, and we are open and honest about it.’
Hall has also made attempts to make the accounts accessible to senior
managers and councillors.
In 2004/05 he introduced a finance monitor, which breaks down the council’s
financial position in plain English.
Over the past year, Hall has transformed the way the council manages its
grant claims. Previously, it was unable to substantiate the hundreds of millions
of pounds of government grants that it was due to claim. Hall managed a
reorganisation of the team responsible and delivered a dramatic improvement in
performance and accuracy.
Lambeth council is currently undergoing fundamental restructuring an
project that would not have been possible before new systems were put in place.
This has required Hall to take a project management role to oversee budgets and
make sure that financial discipline is maintained.
‘He’s a tremendous self-starter and dealt with what was a mess,’ said our
judges. ‘It’s amazing what he has achieved.’
Hall has also taken an active role in the finance training curriculum,
working with the trainers to design the courses.
He acts as sponsor of two core courses on budget-setting and closing
accounts, and has taken on a mentoring role for eight CIPFA graduate trainee
accountants, who have recently been recruited by the council.
Hall’s philosophy is to make numbers come to life, ensuring that the
financial situation can be seen at a glance without the need for technical
‘I want the people I work with to be able to trust that I am managing their
budgets well and giving them honest, accurate advice,’ he said.
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