Accountancy wasn’t my first choice as a career – I wanted to be a teacher. After completing my A-levels, I travelled to Australia and decided I wanted to live and work there. Accountancy was on the skilled profession list to obtain a visa, so I studied the AAT, got a job as a finance officer and then studied ACCA to become fully qualified. I worked as a senior management accountant in a university in Ballarat, Victoria, for 18 months. Having the opportunity to work and live in another country, developing skills and gaining experience have been invaluable in furthering my career, while teaching me a lot about myself.
I now lead the finance function at Folkestone & Hythe District Council. This involves providing financial information and advice across the council, ensuring robust financial procedures and maintaining financial sustainability. I prepare annual budgets, set the council tax requirement for the district and lead the final accounts process, producing the annual statement of accounts. I also provide support to the CFO in creating financial strategies, and interact with the corporate leadership team – the directors and the CEO – and councillors to provide financial advice and regular updates on the council’s financial position.
My role is becoming a lot more focused on strategic planning to ensure the future viability of services and projects
The biggest challenge facing local government is funding. Councils are having to continually think of new ways to generate revenue to support the cost of providing essential services. My role is becoming a lot more focused on strategic thinking and long-term planning to ensure the future viability of services and projects. There is also much more government reporting.
The council had a flexible working policy prior to the pandemic, so working from home wasn’t such a big transition for us. We now work from home permanently and the longer-term plan is to sell the council offices and relocate to smaller, purpose-built accommodation for meetings and office working, when required. The social interaction side of working in the office is the biggest loss, but as a team we have weekly non-work catch-ups. We attend the office one day a month for a team meeting and meet for lunch.
The council has set up a great wellbeing programme. This includes regular Zoom sessions where people can chat with others as they would when having a coffee in the office kitchen, talk about their mental health and wellbeing, or take part in social activities such as bingo or a quiz. Since working from home I have routines to separate my work life from my home life. I am more disciplined about taking regular breaks, getting outside for a walk during the day and finishing at a reasonable hour.
I like to travel and have really missed this during the pandemic. I enjoy nature and like to go for walks by the sea or in local nature reserves and parks. I am a member of Rock Choir, which I find therapeutic. A good sing-song relieves the stresses of the day!