We need more research into government financial resilience amid pandemic

17 Dec 20

Governments are facing one of the biggest ever challenges to their financial resilience because of the pandemic. Professor Ileana Steccolini outlines how the University of Essex and CIPFA are teaming up to offer a fully funded PhD studentship to give the accountancy profession deeper insight.


Uncertainty and financial strain triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic have put great emphasis on government financial resilience, such as how governments cope with shocks affecting their finances to continue providing public services.

Local authorities in England have been subject to significant budget cuts over the last decade, with already strained social care budgets being put under further pressure by the pandemic.

On the other hand, it is expected that councils may face costs of up to £13bn to take appropriate measures to tackle the pandemic.

The resilience perspective provides an important lens through which to better understand and explore possible solutions at a time when councils face significant future challenges.

Resilience considers the organisational processes behind government responses to shocks.

However, it also draws attention to the interaction of environmental and organisational factors and how these shape responses to unexpected events.

This in turn allows a more granular view of which organisational capacities allow local governments to anticipate and cope with financial difficulties, how and why they evolve over time, and how and why they impact on financial performance and vulnerability.

Previous research into local government financial resilience in the UK, Italy, Austria, and Germany, developed by myself and colleagues, and further validated through studies of 11 more countries – has explored the possible dimensions influencing reactions to austerity and identifying different ways of being resilient.

This covered areas including anticipatory capacities, coping capacities and perceived vulnerability.

However, the pandemic represents an important opportunity to widen the scope of the research, and to widen its scope to different conditions, thus developing deeper knowledge on financial resilience.

More needs to be known on the factors influencing:

  • Financial resilience (what explains more or less resilient behaviours?);
  • Dynamics (how responses to shocks and constraints are shaped by existing local government capacity, and how they evolve and interact over time) and;
  • Consequences (the effects of combinations of different capacities to cope and anticipate shocks).

To dig further into some of these questions, the University of Essex has partnered with CIPFA to offer a fully funded PhD studentship.

The student will be undertaking ground-breaking research on government financial resilience, exploring how local governments build on their capacity to face financial shocks caused by the pandemic to ensure the maintenance and transformation of local public services in the long run.

At the same time, policymakers and the accounting and finance professions need this evidence to identify possible indicators of financial resilience, and the capacity that must be further developed to better equip councils in facing financial challenges posed by the pandemic.

Applications for the studentship are open to candidates around the world.

Applications close on Monday 18 Jan 2021.

Get more information about the PhD on governmental financial resilience in the post-Covid-19 era

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