Trust is one of the key themes the
new UK Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy
president, Roger Latham, is focusing on. He speaks with Carolyn
Canham about this theme and also how important it is to care for
the team.

Roger Latham is a veteran of public finance and operations. His
first experience in the public sector was when he joined local
government in 1976, taking an economist job in the West
Midlands.

In early 1990 he moved to Nottinghamshire to
become deputy county treasurer. Within a year he became treasurer
and remained in that position until 2002 when he was appointed
chief executive, a role he maintained until retirement last
year.

The new Chartered Institute of Public Finance
and Accountancy (CIPFA) president also has a great deal of
experience in the governance of the professional body, having
served on the council since 2000.

Deeply seeded

Taking on the presidency late last
month, Latham picked trust as one of his key themes. While the
theme is timely considering the battering trust in organisations
and public figures has taken through both the financial crisis and
an expenses scandal among UK MPs, Latham says the theme is seeded
much deeper than current events. There are three issues relevant to
the theme.

“The first is that organisations that are
built around the traditional model of command and control, the very
hierarchical model with lots of performance indicators and
performance targets, fail to take significant account of things
that really motivate people,” Latham says.

More important is the way organisations
function through relationships.

“If you are building on relationships then the
basic underpinning of relationships is trust. It is what has been
described as networks of trust and they are always there in
organisations, but I believe in building on those networks,” he
says.

The second point is the current economic
crisis and difficulties surrounding that.

“There is a failure of trust – a failure of
trust of depositors in banks, a failure of trust between banks
themselves and a failure of trust in governments to properly
control and regulate the over exuberant markets,” Latham says.

“Therefore, while all the technical things
need to be done in order to restore economies and develop and grow,
building and rebuilding trust in key economic and political
institutions is an absolutely central point as well.”

The third point involves countering the growth
of a managerialist culture.

Managerialist culture does not facilitate a
particularly strong vision of how things ought to be, it simply
says that whatever it is, we must manage it effectively, Latham
explains. He says this has spread both into professional areas and
into politics.

“[Managerialist culture] doesn’t have a
substantial basis of knowledge or basis of belief, which constitute
those relationships of trust, which are essential,” he says.

Another theme that personally interests Latham
is the importance of taking care of the team. This again relates to
organisational relationships.

“It is going to be a very tough time in the
public sector over the next few years,” he says.

“When organisations are under stress and
individuals are under stress it is important for people in
leadership or senior positions to look after themselves and to look
after their team’s health and well-being, and not just have regard
for that but to do things actively in order to develop that.

“It isn’t self-indulgent, it is good
management to look after yourself and look after your people.

“There are too many examples of over stressed
people doing things which really damage organisations and damaging
others and we need to avoid that.”

When Latham took over the CIPFA presidency
late last month, he also launched the new CIPFA manifesto, Better
Ideas, Better Public Services. He explains the manifesto attempts
to highlight a number of issues the institute has identified as
significant and thinks the government should pay attention to.

“They are about effective financial
management,” he explains. “Given the fact that any government that
comes into power will face a very difficult situation both in the
public sector and in the wider economy, we felt that these were
issues worth putting on the table – saying to any government ‘you
need to pay regard to these’.”

Trust, again, was one central themes of the
manifesto.

“The need to restore trust was very critical
in that, but equally was an understanding that if you really wanted
to effect some significant change then there had to be more
delegation to the people on the front line to make decisions and
act effectively to make efficiencies,” Latham says.

“Equally there needs to be a proper
transparent approach to policy making and assessment of
policies.”