Strengthening Public Sector Finance Teams for the Future: Insights from the CIPFA Annual Conference

Strengthening Public Sector Finance Teams for the Future: Insights from the CIPFA Annual Conference

CIPFA’s annual conference, Public Finance Live, returned to London at the QEII Centre in the heart of Westminster, last month. Morgan Law were thrilled to meet with such a fantastic turnout of Local Government finance professionals and gain insights into the current outlook for public sector finance and what we as recruiters can do to help employers attract and retain the skills they need in such challenging conditions. 

Attracting over 700 attendees, and with plenaries and workshops on everything from climate change to digital fraud, this two-day conference is aimed at professionals working in public finance and accountancy in the UK and globally and brings together leading public figures, public sector innovators, finance professionals, commentators, analysts, and other sector experts.  

Here are our key highlights from the conference, and some tips for public finance leaders on how to navigate recruitment in today’s climate. 

The current landscape of public sector finance

The prevailing mood of the conference this year was maintaining momentum through uncertainty and challenge. Economic forecasts inevitably meant that budgets and saving were high on the agenda this year particularly the highly publicised financial crises experienced by certain Councils. 

Many local authorities have been challenged, with budget deficits and more money going out than coming in. Sensibility and caution in financial decision making were buzzwords alongside discussion of sustainability and ESG investment strategies. By the end of the conference three major threads affected in the current public sector finance landscape emerged: 

  1. A pause in major capital investments
    Economic uncertainty has led to a cautious approach toward major capital investment programmes. Whilst existing commitments and development plans continue to progress, albeit slowly, most organisations are postponing new until after the upcoming general election. Hopefully the outcome of that election will provide more financial clarity. There is a concurrent move to consolidate existing services where possible to save costs. Many organisations express a feeling of treading water.   
  2. The trouble with recruitment
    It remains a huge struggle for organisations to fill permanent job roles. This is true of the wider employment market overall with the latest KPMG report showing permanent placements falling at the quickest rate since mid-2020. However, the situation is exacerbated in the public sector where bad press around the financial positions of key councils has damaged the employer brand of local authorities, salary grades have remained static for nearly 10 years and the private sector is now matching EVP elements such as flexible working that previously set the public sector apart. To combat the difficulties of permanent recruitment, employers are turning to the interim market as a solution.  
  3. Consolidation, cost savings, and operational efficiency
    As mentioned above organisations are attempting to balance the need for digital transformation with economic and political uncertainty. The focus on cost-saving strategies has led to a trend towards consolidating services and teams to optimise operations. Unfortunately, this belt-tightening has curtailed learning and development programmes making it harder to grow internal talent and offer career progression to existing staff. Organisations need to address the wider impact of financial consolidation on their ability to recruit and retain key skills.

What can be done to address public sector finance recruitment and talent acquisition challenges?

The struggle to fill permanent job positions in public sector finance isn’t going away and relying on the interim market to bridge those recruitment gaps is unsustainable in the long term, especially as interim and temporary staffing can be costly. 

Our recommendations for how employers can strike the balance between cost-saving with actionable strategies to improve public sector finance recruitment include: 

 – Invest in your employer brand
Amid the impact of negative press on public sector organisations employer brand there is real opportunity to improve here. At Morgan Law we’ve spoken at length on employer branding in the public sector and what you can do to improve it in a way that’s impactful but cost effective.

Your careers website is an often underused tool for highlighting positive aspects of your employer brand and making quick wins. It should be easy to use and put the benefits of working for you front and centre. You can also use it as a platform to shout about your EDI milestones and put emphasis on the meaningful and purposeful work you do. All these things are attractive to candidates right now. 

 – Focus on development planning
A lack of succession planning and internal mobility are going to make it difficult for you nurture talent and prepare them for mid-management level positions. If you fail to do this, you run the risk of losing high quality staff to outside organisations and will need to make potentially costly external hires. 

Take the time to review your workforce and succession planning and look for ways to address structural inertia through training, learning, and development programmes. Technology can be a great asset here and there are several plug and play solutions for delivering training and onboarding online which don’t have to cost the earth. Public sector employers should also be advocating for a national “Future Leaders” program to support and develop potential. 

 – Work on your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)
The public sector is really struggling right now to define what sets them apart as an employer. The ability to offer flexible and hybrid working is no longer unique to the public sector and stagnant salary bands and grading over the past decade make it difficult to address market rate salaries and expectations.

Your EVP needs to evolve if you are going to continue to attract and retain key skills and high-quality talent. Get some feedback from current employees and candidates on what they want and expect from an employer and use that to determine the direction of your EVP. Social responsibility, a positive work culture and clear career progression opportunities are all things that can elevate your EVP.

 – Improve candidate experience
Finally candidate experience can be the difference between making a good hire and failing to attract the best candidates. Lengthy hiring processes with little communication can put candidates off from applying or cause them to drop out altogether. On the other hand, a positive candidate experience can mean even unsuccessful candidates can be encouraged to reapply later in their careers.

You can use automation to streamline your recruitment processes, speed up your time to hire and create more touch points with candidates that leave a positive impression. Make sure your website is mobile friendly, ensure job descriptions are clear and give a transparent timeline of the process that you’ll stick to.  


In the evolving landscape of public sector finance, adaptation and investment will be critical for maintaining sustainable, long-term recruitment. By fostering a collaborative spirit and embracing innovative EVP strategies, public sector employers can strengthen their hiring in finance and across their organisations, for a more resilient and stable sector.

Unlock the potential of your public sector finance team with Morgan Law

At Morgan Law, our team of experienced consultants is well-versed in helping public-sector and not-for-profit organisations create bespoke recruitment strategies and improve their existing practices to ensure they can access the talent they need, when they need it.   

Our established database of over 30,000 senior-level, highly skilled professionals with significant experience in the public and not-for-profit sectors available on a permanent and contract basis enable us to deliver the highest quality recruitment solutions. 

Get in touch to discuss your recruitment needs.