Deborah Fern - Senior Accountant at South Staffordshire District Council
Do you like numbers, meeting people and problem solving? Do you want to make sure public money is being spent effectively? Finance and accountancy could be right for you.
I’m Deborah and I’m a Senior Accountant. After working in the private sector in manufacturing and construction, I spotted a council ‘term time only’ contract; which was perfect as a single mum to a 6 year old. Many years and a few council moves later I was ‘head hunted’ to my current role. I still value the flexible hours; now I can help care for my elderly parents, and do a role I love.
The best thing about my job is the variety. Every day is different. I can be talking to the CEO then the caretaker. I can be working on our insurance, VAT, budget management, investment appraisals or project work. If we are busy or have an urgent deadline, then I’m reviewing invoices so we pay our bills on time or chasing debts. I spend three days home working and two in the office. We do have a fabulous office space here that we share with other partners, like the police, doctors, county council and health colleagues.
We’ve around 180 businesses that rent space and buildings from us, on our business parks and office hub, this income supports the services we provide as a council. One of my jobs is to make sure that these organisations pay their rent on time.
Currently I’m working on updating our debt collection policy so our procedures are effective and fair. If businesses are struggling to pay, we will work with them, we know these are tough times. However, central government funding has decreased so we have to be innovative with new funding streams, which could mean expanding our property portfolio which would provide both additional rental income and support local employment.
Finance is sometimes thought of as a ‘back office’ or ‘behind the scenes’ function. Not true. Financial management is essential to what councils do, making sure that money collected is used well. There’s always new demands for services, so we do regular efficiency reviews.
One innovation here is that we run school sports facilities as leisure centres so residents can use these facilities out of school hours, therefore sharing the running costs.
Councils set ambitions for their communities; the accountants make sure the money is there to deliver them. It’s exciting!
Deborah is featured in our Local Government Career Guide, click here to find out more about working in local government and the wide variety of career options available.
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