Awards 2006: Ealing Council – Public sector finance team of the year

aa awards 2006

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Ealing Council, the winner of Public Sector Finance Team of the Year, has
achieved a fantastic financial transformation for local people.

Cautionary tales of financial mismanagement are legion in the world of local
authority finances. But Ealing’s finance team, led by Richard Ennis, has worked
tirelessly to restore credibility, improve transparency and communication, and
impose financial rigour on the council’s spending and budgeting habits.

‘It’s hard to imagine a team that could have worked harder and set about
reaching its aims with more enthusiasm. They faced enormous difficulties but
took them and delivered innovative solutions and performed an astonishing
turnaround,’ the judges said.

In July 2005, Ennis was appointed as the new head of finance. He and the team
set about improving lines of communication to ensure everyone was clear about
their roles and objectives, and establishing an honest dialogue to address past

The team introduced a monthly ‘finance monitor’, which described the
council’s financial health in plain English for the benefit of the board and the
cabinet. Ennis and his team also took a lead on communicating to services that
no new capital investment bids would be supported unless they were prudent,
affordable and sustainable.

In 2005, Ealing Council’s chief executive and entire executive board stood
down and the authority’s cash position was officially in crisis. Auditor KPMG
described finances as ‘extremely challenging’ and the cash balances of £2m as
‘inadequate for a council of Ealing’s size.’

The team achieved some dramatic reversals in the council’s fortunes. So while
the local council tax increased by 25.1% in 2003/04, the rise was only 2.49% for
2006/07. The general fund cash reserve has also been increased from £2m to £10m.

In 2003/04 there was a social services overspend of £2.6m (and £1.8m in
2004/05). For 2005/06, social services spending was within budget. And earmarked
reserves rose from £13m in 2004 to £27m in March 2006.

It is clear that Ennis and his team have halted the financial crisis and
restored order and morale to a formerly embattled finance function.


? Some £22min efficiency savings.
? An award of £2.4m from government under the Local Authority Business Growth
Incentive scheme.
? A balanced and robust budget for 2006/07 despite the minimum grant increase
from government of 2%.
? Books balanced for the first time since the 1990s.

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