Public sector finance chiefs are under pressure to make extensive changes to their budget setting and forecasting methods in order to maintain a tighter hold on spending, as central funding continues to shrink. This is one of the key findings of a new white paper commissioned by leading software provider, Advanced Business Solutions (Advanced).
The paper, ‘Next generation budgeting in the public sector: transforming transparency & devolving decision making’, explores attitudes in the public sector around improving budget setting processes in the face of more years of austerity. The document also looks at views on change in finance processes and assesses the effectiveness of current methods of financial planning in the public sector.
The whitepaper references a survey by iGov, which found 87% of finance chiefs saw a need for better control over their budget setting process. More productive use of staff time was an associated priority, with 88% saying this was of moderate to high importance. A further 84% of respondents ranked having greater visibility of budgets over time as being of moderate to high importance.
Dean Dickinson, Managing Director of Advanced Business Solutions (Public Sector & Enterprise division), said: “Finance chiefs will have to maintain a vice-like grip over their budget setting processes in the years ahead – the white paper is very clear on this. The facts are, however, that the public sector still has much to do in terms of modernising their accounting processes.”
The paper also highlights Advanced’s budgeting and forecasting solution, Collaborative Planning as a good example of how public sector organisations have recently made substantial budgetary savings through dedicated software. Cheshire West and Chester Council made a saving in excess of £1m in the first year of using the software, while Warrington Borough Council was able to reduce its financial reporting process from three months to two weeks thanks to the solution.
Collaborative Planning is a web-based budget management solution, designed to help organisations control the preparation, monitoring and forecasting of budgets. It replaces spreadsheets and simplifies the entire budgeting process, while offering complete control and visibility of spend.
Adds Dickinson: “By automating time-consuming routine tasks, finance teams reclaim the time and capacity to develop their own strategic role within an organisation. This is a very high priority across the public sector.
“However, while there’s no doubt that the technology exists to enable change for the better, the white paper suggest a large number of public sector finance teams remain in the dark about the solutions available to them. Attitudes will need to change first and there is clear need for an education process, especially with more cuts on the horizon.”