Newport council making finance more strategic

Newport City Council is reducing time-consuming financial administration and enabling its finance function to "become more strategic".

The council is implementing a budgeting and forecasting solution from Advanced Business Solutions, which is being integrated with its Oracle Financials ERP system. The project is being piloted this month and will be rolled-out across the council by July 2013.

Currently, four devolved finance teams (around six staff in each) across four directorates spend two weeks each month compiling budgets and forecasts using Excel spreadsheets, which is time-consuming and does not add value, said the council.

As the council has to find cost savings the need for a more automated and collaborative approach to budgeting and forecasting was identified.

Meirion Rushworth, assistant head of finance for accountancy at Newport City Council, said: "We need to cut down on manual tasks within our professional accountancy teams, freeing-up the finance department's time so that they can focus on understanding and analysing the figures and supporting managers.

"We also recognised the need to empower budget managers to take ownership of their own budgets, and to do that they need better access to information."

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Newport is now integrating Advanced's Collaborative Planning system with Oracle Financials. With Collaborative Planning budget managers can review and update their own budgets and forecasts on an ongoing, rolling basis, enabling an instant view of the council's financial status.

In time, said Newport, the system will be used for building the council's budgets, and certain tasks such as inflationary calculations, which are currently pulled together by four different teams, will be automated by the system and done once rather than in duplicate.

With the finance teams no longer having to spend two weeks every month compiling and consolidating spreadsheets, their time will be freed-up for more strategic tasks, said Rushworth.

She said: "Collaborative Planning will enable us to move from functional finance teams to a more strategically-focused finance department. This change will allow finance professionals to be at the very heart of key decision making."

Last year, Newport was one of eight public sector organisations in south-east Wales to connect to a shared service wide area network provided by the Welsh Assembly, as part of a five-year £14 million deal.