Balancing the books… and what happens when they don’t

It’s not often that being a chartered accountant is a good thing. We’re always cast as the boring guy in the movies. The beancounter who likes to say ‘no’. Small children snigger at us behind our backs. And we never get invited to the best parties. But it does have its advantages. I don’t panic when the bank calls. I can do my tax return in under fifteen minutes. And I can spot a looming financial car wreck from several miles off.

And, I can tell you, there are a lot of them about.

Continue reading

Why private finance deals make sense in the short term but not in the long run

I read this morning that the Ministry of Defence is looking to buy back 38,000 homes that it sold in 1996 and has since been renting from the private equity firm that now owns them. The National Audit Office has calculated that this arrangement has left the taxpayer between £2.2 and £4.2 billion worse off. Like many private finance deals, this deal probably made sense in the short term, but its long-term financial impact has been a disaster.

Continue reading

Budget 2018: All talk, little to inspire

There are budgets that go down in history as a turning point in the nation’s fortunes. That set a clear and resolute course to steer for the betterment of the British polity, economy and society. The budget presented to Parliament yesterday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not one of these. Instead, it was  – at best – a placeholder. The political equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders. An admission that, quite frankly, what will happen in the next twelve months is anyone’s guess. Continue reading

The great funding challenge

The Government is very good at telling us how much funding it is allocating to different services. But it is less good at focusing on how well these services are doing. The Performance Tracker, published by the Institute for Government and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) bridges this gap. And its findings are far from reassuring. Continue reading