Headlines: January 17th, 2005

As public bodies continue to move away from national pay bargaining, top accountants are receiving above-inflation salary increases. According to a survey from Hays Accountancy & Finance Public Services Salary Guide 2004, average salaries for finance directors in higher education institutes increased by 6% in a year to 72,083 pounds and those in larger housing associations by 4.1% to 68,250 pounds. In the NHS, senior finance salaries in Acute Trusts and larger Primary Care Trusts are also showing healthy growth; with the average pay for a finance director at a larger Acute Trust reaching 86,955 pounds.In contrast, central government salaries are lagging behind, with the average finance director salary only increasing 1.4% to 67,625 pounds. This is expected to change as the Gershon Efficiency Review starts to bite and the recommended professionalisation of financial decision-making in the civil service takes effect. Departments will need better and more effective accountants and finance directors. The Government’s modernisation agenda will also place greater emphasis on accountants who can demonstrate that they can drive efficiency and gain added value from available resources. Skilled management accountants, particularly those who have a commercial outlook, will be able to command higher salaries.

Non-salary benefits and work-life balance are also becoming increasingly important in order to compete with private sector salaries. Currently, higher education institutes offer the best holidays – 33 days a year, compared to 29 days in the NHS, 28 days in central government and 26 days in local government. Meanwhile, central and local government lead the way on flexi-time and lease cars are most likely to be offered by housing associations and the NHS.