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CIPFA South West AGM Conference Review | Jonny Finnikin

Posted on March 2024

Male recruiter in the Bath Guildhall with the CIPFA logo
Jonny Finnikin, Senior Executive Consultant on our Local Government Finance team, reflects on the recent CIPFA South West AGM Conference and the latest developments in the sector.


We were excited to be invited by Sean Cremer, the president of CIPFA South West, to take part in and sponsor their AGM Conference which took place last week. The event was held in the historic Guildhall in Bath, and it was an excellent opportunity to engage with finance leaders and professionals from councils, housing associations, the NHS and across the wider public sector.

In addition to the AGM meeting, there were a number of talks during the day by distinguished leaders in the sector: Alan Finch, Principal Adviser at the Local Government Association, provided a lay of the land concerning the current financial situation of the councils; Justin Galliford, CEO at Norse Group, addressed how councils can meet their net-zero targets; and a panel of financial directors from councils and NHS Trusts discussed how healthcare can successfully integrate with local government.

I was particularly interested to hear Andy Rothery, CFO at Bath & North East Somerset Council, presenting how their council addressed the fallout from the pandemic, particularly as a result of having to close the Roman Baths and Museum during that period. As all local authorities will have been impacted in distinct ways, it was insightful to hear a senior leader’s perspective on how they strategised their budgets and negotiated grants for an array of possible scenarios, as well as considering their current outlook.

We also heard from CIPFA President Caroline Rassell and Chief of Financial Management Iain Murray about the future of CIPFA and local government, with a focus on how they can better reach young people in the discipline. After they opened the discussion up to the floor, I offered a perspective on how young people in certain areas can be forgotten about in public finance; as someone who studied accountancy at university, I hadn’t heard of CIPFA until I started working at Venn Group. The support CIPFA offers is invaluable, and ensuring that the right people are engaged is vital.

As Jeremy Hunt delivered the spring budget on the same day as the conference, a lot of people were anticipating updates throughout the event. The main news was that the councils would be taking a further indirect cut as a result of inflation and higher demand for services, and would need to reassess their spend. We discussed with other delegates how there would be a great need at this time for organisations to partner with agencies such as Venn Group who were well placed to reliably supply on budget, making use of routes to market such as the LGRP and CCS frameworks.

This challenge will also require different ways to reach candidates, and we suggested that the councils could offer longer contracts in order to make the most effective use of their budget; while the rates may be lower, this will attract candidates through offering greater security at a time of financial uncertainty.

The conference was followed by a dinner at the scenic Roman Pump and Spa room, and offered the chance to celebrate the excellent results of the CIPFA graduates as they received their certificates, as well as introducing the new CEO, Owen Mapley, and honoring the decade-long service of current CEO Rob Whiteman prior to his retirement.

It was a pleasure to meet and hear from so many dedicated individuals within the sector; despite the challenges which the local government continues to face, it’s clear that they are being supported by the best in the business. We’re already looking forward to returning in 2025.


To discuss your recruitment requirements, please contact Jonny Finnikin on 0121 616 0660 or email