Finance Officer

There is a corporate services department in all local authority. As the name suggests, it incorporates the council's 'core' functions. All the services provided to a local community rely on efficient administration, human resource management, information technology support, legal representation and advice, marketing and promotion and thorough policy development and research.

But at the heart of this, is sound financial acumen. No business, commercial or otherwise can survive if the financial basis is unstable. Finance officers are part of a team that includes accountants, accounting technicians, accounting assistants or, as they are sometimes called, finance clerks. Finance officers work to professionally qualified accountants.

Work Environment
Most of the time is spent at a desk with a computer. Occasionally officers will need to visit other departments to discuss the way accounts are kept or spend time on audit work.

Daily Activities
Finance officers often act as line managers to accounting assistants and clerks and as such will have oversight of the basic accountancy functions:

  • financial records
  • production and analysis of figures for the accountants or departmental heads
  • audit accounts
  • invoices
  • expenses claims
  • computerised accounting systems

When accountancy assistants find mistakes or instances of mal-practice in invoices and expenses claims they refer them to the Finance officer for action. In addition they will help with larger issues that might have to do with the whole council or a large department such as social services. For example they may play a key role in dealing with the financial implications of purchase and monitoring of services for those in the community who have special care needs - wheelchairs for the disabled, the costs of running a residential home for the elderly and so on. They would be required to advice on staff budgets and monitoring spending, payments to creditors and statistical returns. Sometimes they work in other directorates, like the fire service, which may not have a professional accountant on its pay roll, where they could have special responsibility for ensuring that salaries and suppliers are paid on time.

Skills & Interests
Finance officers need to be:

  • numerate, accurate and have good computer skills
  • able to meet key deadlines
  • able to communicate with colleagues at all levels
  • enthusiastic
  • experienced in financial and administrative management
  • good team workers and leaders.

Entry Requirements
Some experience working in accountancy and a good knowledge of computerised accounting systems and financial software packages.
Most councils will assume that you have gained a minimum of four GCSE/S grades at C/3 or above, including English and maths or equivalent in the relevant discipline.

There is on the job training and finance officers may qualify as members of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) or The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).

Future Prospects & Opportunities
The promotion path is clear and encouraging, but depends upon further qualification and experience. There are many opportunities outside of local authorities in the private sector and in public agencies like the Financial Services Authority. Within the local sector, finance officers can progress to senior financial management positions and ultimately, with membership of a professional body and further training to professional accountant status.

Further Information & Services
Accountancy Age journal
Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
Association of Accounting Technicians
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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