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Career Structure

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 29 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what plans she has for the training and development of finance staff in her Department’s headquarters under the Finance Professionalism agenda; and whether those proposals have been (a) equality-proofed under Civil Service equality provisions and (b) subject to an equality impact assessment; (202210)

(2) how many staff within the finance team in her Department’s headquarters have been promoted under the Finance Professionalism agenda;

(3) how many staff within the finance team in her Department’s headquarters have been promoted in the last 12 months otherwise than under the provisions of the Finance Professionalism agenda;

(4) whether her Department’s trade union side or the relevant recognised trade unions was consulted on the Finance Professionalism agenda before it was announced to staff; and whether the trade union side or the relevant recognised trade unions has written to her Department seeking consultation on the Finance Professionalism agenda.

[holding answer 28 April 2008]: The agenda for financial management and finance professionalism is mandated by HM Treasury. The objectives are:

“Delivering world class standards of financial management in Government requires the cost effective translation of resources into desired outcomes. This means having the right decision making structures in place, and the financial information and skills capacities to operate them.

In seeking to deliver world class standards of financial management the Treasury aims to:-

Promote improvements in the effectiveness of financial management and finance professionalism in Government.

Implement reporting frameworks that build on best practice and deliver efficient and effective integrated reporting mechanisms for Government financial data.

Promote excellent accountability in the use of public funds through setting standards of governance, risk management and internal control.”

Delivery of the Finance Professionalism agenda in each Government Department is the responsibility of the Head of Finance Professionalism. They operate within the framework and accountabilities established by Dame Mary Keegan within the auspices of the Government Finance Profession.

For details of the role see:

http://thegfp.treasury.gov.uk/professional/hofps_58.html

The accountabilities include training and development of finance staff. Communities and Local Government (“CLG”) participate in the “Big 7” group of Heads of Finance Professionalism in sharing best practice and developing the professionalism agenda.

In September 2007, CLG launched its current training and development programme for finance staff. At present, this is focused on London-based staff and has not yet been rolled out to the Government offices and the shared service centre. The main strands of the training and development programme are:

Continuous professional development activities and events for qualified and part qualified staff.

“Bite sized” learning events on both finance and other Professional Skills for Government (“PSG”) topics that are relevant to CLG for all finance staff.

Professional training courses for a CCAB qualification delivered by England’s leading providers and open to all finance staff.

Development of a set of finance competencies, based on best practice, against which finance staff can benchmark themselves.

The training and development programme has been equality-proofed and subject to an equality impact assessment. Specifically:

There is no limitation on any finance staff attending training and development events.

There is no funding limitation or restrictions in finance staff taking up professional training.

The training providers have a range of courses, including day release; evening study; weekend study and distance learning to fully meet flexible working requirements. There are no restrictions on which course finance staff select and there are generous study leave arrangements.

The training providers operate from a number of localities to meet the needs of finance staff.

The finance training manager provides open support and is available to assist with any individual difficulties.

The training and development programme also covers non-finance staff and provides for accessibility and support for finance Professional Skills for Government through the National School of Government “Finance Love Learning” portal.

There are approximately 135 finance staff based in central London. Since the launch of the current finance professionalism scheme in September, there have been six promotions internally on successful completion of accountancy examinations. Three finance staff have been promoted on transfer to other Government Departments, including one to the senior civil service. In addition, three members of the CLG fast stream have joined the Government Finance Profession (“GFP”) fast stream.

Prior to the new scheme, only one member of staff had been promoted in the preceding five months from 1 April 2007. This promotion was of a member of staff who had worked independently to pass accountancy qualifications.

The Finance Professionalism agenda is a Government- wide initiative, the objectives of which are publicly set out on the GFP website.

For details see:

http://thegfp.treasury.gov.uk/home.aspx

The policy strands of the current training and development programme were discussed with the trade union side on 7 September 2007.

On 28 January 2008, the PCS union wrote to the Head of Finance Professionalism in relation to the finance competency framework that had been issued to support finance staff unable to take finance qualifications. On 29 January, the Head of Finance Professionalism wrote to the PCS to answer the questions that they had raised and offered to meet the PCS to discuss any concerns. There have been regular communications to staff.