Awards 2005: public sector FD – Nathan Elvery

For the youngest director of finance in the country to take on what many
considered to be the toughest London borough to manage may be considered diving
in at the deep end.

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When Nathan Elvery was appointed to Croydon Council in August 2004, he
inherited a catalogue of strategic financial weaknesses. The council’s balances
and reserves had dwindled to almost nothing over the previous four years,
placing it at considerable risk and attracting the scrutiny of the external
auditor with regard to section 114.

Using a clear and concise rescue plan, Elvery turned around and stabilised
the council’s position. He was the natural choice to win our award for Financial
Director ­ Public and Voluntary.

‘This was a big success story and a financial success. Nathan took on what
sounded like an awful job, seized the opportunity and earned the trust of the
CEO and others,’ said our judges. ‘He is on a mission to transform.’

In the space of one year, Elvery and his team improved the council’s
financial position by £10m and the potential need for a section 114 report has
been averted. For the year 2004/5, the budget was balanced for the first time in
six years.

Before Elvery arrived, overspending was rife, the council faced a £254m
deficit on its pension fund, and morale was low.

It also faced outstanding section 11 recommendations from the district
auditor. The council was at a critical turning point but lacked a financial
strategy to guide the organisation forward.

Through his adherance to his roadmap to excellence, Elvery changed the
financial culture of the council. He worked closely with the leadership of the
council at a time when it was changing and made his ‘roadmap’ a corporate

To achieve his vision, Elvery works to improve internal communications to
ensure that all councillors and council staff are aware of one single corporate
financial picture at all times.

A star chamber process was introduced to challenge all service assumptions,
while a strategic financial forum brings members of the finance team
together,which enables strategic thinking across the organisation.

Croydon Council managed to increase the efficiency of its debt collection
from 56% to 82%, resulting in a £21.8m improvement in outstanding debts. Through
a £56m partnership with NCP and RBS, the council secured revenue savings from
multi-storey car parks.

In addition, an independent assessment judged the council’s pension fund
investments for 2004/5 and found Croydon Council to be its top performer.

The council can now address all of its outstanding section 11
Perhaps the most significant outcome of Croydon’s financial recovery is that the
leadership can now plan the council’s future with confidence.

The council can now demonstrate its financial security, with the result that
it was awarded £1m of additional neighbourhood renewal funding over the next two
years and £12.3m of PFI credits.

Elvery’s role was expanded in April of this year by his appointment to
director of
finance and resources, a reflection of Croydon’s confidence in him.

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