Why is Labour still using the self-defeating, discredited ‘maxed out credit card’ analogy?

In 1942, John Maynard Keynes proclaimed: “Let us not submit to the vile doctrine of the 19th century that every enterprise must justify itself in pounds, shillings and pence of cash income … Assuredly we can afford this and so much more. Anything we can actually do, we can afford.”

Get a free e-book!

A reviewer of Financial Management and Accounting in the Public Sector wrote:

“Gary Bandy has the ability of making complicated topics simple.”

If you work in the public sector you can see some of my writing for yourself by downloading a free copy of the e-book I wrote about public procurement a few years ago.

It’s a short book. It uses the example of hiring a consultant to explain the stages in procurement.

If you are looking to level up your knowledge about procurement then get my e-book for free from here.


Today I went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. I thought it was important to find the time to go.

I think the news coverage of the genocide in April 1994 was the first time I was aware of Rwanda as a country. A million people died in 100 days. It was shocking at the time, and today, the toughest part of the memorial, is the children’s room, with photographs of infants who never reached school age.

And now, 29 years later (kwibuka in the photo means remember), Rwanda is, it seems to me, a peaceful, thriving country.

I’m almost 60 years old. I have learned that things can change faster than you expect. In my teens, in the early 1980s, South Africa was an international pariah because of its apartheid policies. I was one of the many to boycott South African apples and wine and Barclays Bank. If you’d asked me then about going to South Africe I would have said I would never go.

Things changed in 1989. By 1997 I was working on a project in Pretoria and I’ve been back to South Africa twice more since then. It’s probably best to never say never.

Instead we should celebrate the people who have the character to unify divided societies; people who can communicate an inclusive vision and then realise it.

Today is Umuganda Day

The last Saturday of each month is Umuganda Day in Rwanda. This is the day that everyone — including tourists and expatriates — is encouraged to spend a few hours doing community work.

The taxi driver, Dieudonne, told me that the roads were quiet of traffic this morning as a result. There were some cars and cycles and mopeds but not many for a capital city. And no trucks.

As my taxi brought me into the city I saw lots of people sweeping paths and picking litter. Some had high-visibility vests on. Dieudonne told me that they were worn by the people who organise the work.

There were also a lot of police officers at road junctions who signalled for random vehicles to stop. They were asking the drivers to explain why they were travelling instead of doing some community work. My taxi was stopped four times in a journey of less than 10km. The police accepted that the driver could take me to my hotel. I’m not sure what happened to Dieudonne after he left me at the hotel and no longer had a passenger in his taxi.

In its current form Umuganda has been a part of life in Rwanda for 25 years. It seems that Kigali, a city of over a million people, has clean and tidy streets. I can think of many cities I’ve visited that could use 3 hours a month from every citizen to clean things up but it would be such a difficult policy to introduce. Citizens would have to be persuaded that there would be benefits for them to compensate for the government taking three (or fours) hours from them every month.

Taxes work in a similar way, with an unspoken social contract underlying them. As President Frankin D Roosevelt put it:

“Taxes, after all, are the due that we pay for the privileges of membership of an organized society.”

Everyone knows that there are taxes to be paid and, on the whole, people and businesses pay them. But we all know that there are rich people and businesses who pay professional advisers to help them avoid taxes; and there are people of all levels of wealth who simply don’t pay. Implementing an Umuganda-type of scheme is likely to be met with similar avoidance and evasion responses.

I always wanted to be a writer.

It’s one reason I quit being a finance director at the age of 40.

I worked in public finance jobs for 19 years and writing was my favourite part of the work. In my 20s I had jobs in accounting, internal and external auditing and I wrote quite a lot of reports. As I was prompted to more senior roles I would write less and less.

Management jobs are more about reviewing and approving other people’s writing than writing anything yourself. I hated that. I was frustrated partly by my lack of a creative outlet and partly, if I am honest, that what my colleagues wrote was not what I would write. It is this experience that underpins my constant posting on LinkedIn about the need for accountants and auditors to improve their writingskills.

I found other ways to write. I took a master’s degree in 2002 to 2005 and that gave me the chance to write essays and I enjoyed doing them very much.

Then, in 2005-6 I wrote a novel. A complete novel. It was set in local government and was called Power, Corruption and Lies. I sent it to about 25 publishers without any success.

Instead, I wrote a pitch for a public financial management textbook in 2009 and that led to Financial Management and Accounting in the Public Sector being published in 2011, and its 3rd edition was published in March 2023.

My career since 2005 has involved a lot more writing than if I carried on as a finance director. As well as my books, I’ve written reports, articles, contracts, training courses, and lots more. I must have written millions of words about money and, whilst I am still proud to be a CIPFA accountant, I now think of myself as a professional writer about public financial management.

Taken me months to get around to this but finally www.garybandy.co.uk points to my Micro.blog site and I can delete the Squarespace one.

The best thing Apple announce today? The photos that will be able to recognise your pets’ faces.

Schadenfreude is a very underrated form of therapy.

Tonight’s live version of Sometimes by James plus choir and orchestra was magnificent. I hope the new album version is even half as good.

Amazing what you can do with an iPhone and some AI software (Luminar Neo in this case). Photo taken at Aysgarth Falls, Yorkshire, England.

Tomorrow is my 58th birthday and I am going to take the day off.

The day after tomorrow is the 18th anniversary of the end of my last full-time, permanent job. Life begins at 40, eh?

Back in 2005 I didn’t know that it would be my last job. I was a local government finance director and I left the job because I wanted two things that it could not give me: variety in terms of content and location.

Over the last 18 years I have moved from interim management to consulting (on outsourcing, mainly) to teaching and writing. I have worked in many different parts of the public sector here in the UK and also done many projects in or for other jurisdictions. This photo was taken in 2017 during an assignment in Sri Lanka.

For many years my answer to the question, would I ever get a ‘proper job’? was you can never say never. However, after all this time, I think the answer is never. I think I would struggle to fit within the confines of an organisation. I have spent too long working for myself, doing things my way, using technology I like, at times and places that suit me. The rise of home working post COVID-19 means it’s possible I could have a job and still be here, but I would still struggle with completing timesheets or having to ask permission to go on a holiday.

It seems, therefore, that the best thing would be to continue doing what I’m doing. It’s worked out well, so far.

Check your invisibles

After you’ve written a document in Word do you find the text does not look right? Are there unexpected line breaks or extra-wide spaces between some words?

The way to fix this is to show the invisible characters in your document. You do this by clicking the button that has a backwards P on it (the symbol is called a pilcrow).

Having switched it on you will see blue dots for each space character, and symbols showing the tabbed-spaces, line returns, paragraph breaks, page and section breaks and table cells. You can use this view to find what’s messing up the format of your document and put it right.

Triple your productivity. Write with your voice!

There are authors who write their books by hand. With a pen or pencil. Until the industrial age this was the only way

Writing by hand can help with creativity and maybe there are times when you would benefit from this. Many, many years ago I wrote a novel. The first draft was written by hand. Typing it into my computer was the first stage of editing: not every word or sentence made it into the computer file.

Realistically, though, when it comes to work communications we write at a keyboard. We’ve learned to type — perhaps not as fast as a typist but faster than we could write by hand. But why?

We can speak faster than we can write or type. Computers and smart phones now come with the built-in ability to transcribe our voices to text. Using it will get the first draft of a document written much more quickly. You can probably type 40-50 words per minute. Speech recognition software can do 150 words per minute. That report that took you 30 minutes to type could have been done in 10. You can work through your email inbox in a third of the time.

At first you will make mistakes and so will your device but both you and the machine will learn. When I correct spellings on my phone the software seems to learn the word and get it right. The latest version of Apple’s software puts in punctuation without me having to tell it.

I’ve found that it is best to keep going even if you can see the transcribed text is wrong. Sometimes the device will correct the text after a few more words because it can work out the context and make a better guess at what you said.

What are you waiting for? Get writing with your voice. I recommend you on your start small with text messages and short emails and build up to longer documents.

Take 5 minutes to improve everything you write

“I apologise for such a long letter - I didn’t have time to write a short one.” — Mark Twain.

Accountants (and lots of other professionals, I’m sure) write convoluted documents because they don’t have (make) the time to write clear ones.

If you want YOUR reader to get YOUR message then YOU have to make the effort. They have lots of other things they could be doing instead of reading your report or email so you’ve got to make it easy for them.

After writing something spend a few extra minutes making it better. This means:

  • Cutting out all the ‘throat-clearing’ words — such as the background and context that the reader already knows
  • Replacing jargon with plain language
  • Splitting long sentences and paragraphs
  • Putting the most important information at the top

The return on this investment of time will be huge.

Writing tip: Short not shallow.

Your reader has limited time. Do them a favour with your emails and reports and keep them as short as possible.

If a document is short (it fits onto 1 page or 1 screen) the reader can read it and remember what you want them to remember.

If you include everything in your email or document (all the context and your reasons for writing it, etc.) there’s a risk they will remember NOTHING. This is because they either won’t read it at all, or they’ll skim it looking for the important parts. That they’ll likely miss.

This means you need to know what matters to the reader and include only that in what you write. You could do this by adopting the rules of Axios’s Smart Brevity™ method:

📍 Stop being selfish. (Write for the reader, not for you.)

📍 Grab their attention. (Put the most important thing first so the reader remembers it.)

📍Write like a human. (Use the words you would use talking to a friend, not jargon.)

📍Stay scannable. (Use white space and bullets rather than large blocks of text.)

📍Enough is enough. (Leave out everything you don’t need and write as few words as possible.)

It would be pretty easy to create your own templates for reports and emails you write regularly. I’m sure your clients, managers and colleagues would appreciate receiving smarter and briefer communications from you.

Are you ready to take the stage?

Here’s some advice for your first presentation to a large audience.

I understand that many accountants are more at their keyboard than talking a crowd. Many of us are introverts. I fall into the 99th percentile of introversion so that almost certainly means I am more introverted than you. But I’m not shy. I discovered that I rather enjoy making presentations.

Here are three tips to help you make a success of any presentation.

First and foremost, preparation is key. Understand what your audience wants from you and what, therefore, your objective is for the presentation. Write a script that meets the objective, learn your material inside and out, practice your delivery, and anticipate questions that may come up.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to inject some personality into your presentation. Your audience wants to hear from you, not a robotic recitation of facts and figures. Use anecdotes and relatable examples to connect with your listeners and keep them engaged.

Finally, confidence grows as you move through a presentation so, if you can make a good start, you will find it easier to keep going. Write your first few sentences on a note card to make sure you make the start you want. The card is a safety net. If you’re nervous you can read the sentences directly off the card to get the presentation going. After that, it will get easier.

Making a presentation to a large audience may seem daunting but with the right preparation, personality and confidence, you’ll succeed. You might even enjoy it!

TIP: Don’t use pie charts

Pie charts are easy to create and they’re colourful and you might want to include lots of them in your documents and presentations.

👇 Let me explain why you should avoid pie charts — and donut charts — in most situations.


Writing tip: use a style guide

Does your organisation have a style guide? This is a document that sets out standards for written communication. It could cover preferred spellings, rules for capitalising words, lists of words and phrases that should be avoided, etc

If your organisation has one you should, of course, use it.

If your organisation doesn’t have a style guide I suggest you find one online that you like and follow it so that at least your documents will have some consistency.

News outlets are a good source of style guide. Do a web search for your chosen news outlet + style guide.

If you are willing to invest some money in improving your writing then I recommend ‘Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White. It emphasises the importance of clarity and brevity in writing.

As Dorothy Parker wrote:

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favour you can do them is to present them with copies of ‘The Elements of Style’. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

Pro tip: Use your body when presenting

To deliver a successful accounting presentation, you need to write good content, design effective supporting visuals and rehearse.

You also have to be aware of your body language. What you do with your body, hands, face will affect the tone and impact of your presentation, and whether your audience trusts you and understands the information you’re presenting.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to body language in accounting presentations:

  • **Maintain eye contact **with your audience to establish trust and show confidence. Avoid looking down or around the room, as this can make you appear disengaged or uninterested.
  • Stand up straight, with your shoulders back and your chest out. This not only helps you look confident but also helps you breathe better, which can help you speak more clearly.
  • Use hand gestures to emphasise important points, but avoid excessive or distracting movements. Be intentional with your gestures and make sure they align with your message.
  • Your face can convey a lot of information, so make sure your expressions match the tone of your message. Avoid looking bored, nervous, or unsure, as this can undermine your credibility.
  • Move around the room if possible, but don’t pace back and forth. Use movement to engage your audience and emphasise important points.

3 ways to write faster and make fewer mistakes

1. Use keyboard shortcuts

There are shortcuts for most of the popular actions such as copy (Cmd/Ctrl + C), paste (Cmd/Ctrl + V), save (Cmd/Ctrl + S), and open (Cmd/Ctrl + O). In Word the shift key combined with arrow keys highlights text faster than you can drag a mouse.

Don’t try to learn every shortcut in one go. Learn one or two and when they become second nature learn another couple.

2. Use text expansion

There are some phrases, sentences and paragraphs you use over and again. Whenever you notice you are writing something you have written before you can automate it with a trigger phrase. For example, when I type ‘socf’ it is replaced by ‘statement of cash flows’.

There are many text expansion apps available and which suits you depends in part on the devices you have and how much you are willing to pay to save time.

3. Use your voice

You speak faster than you can type. Next time you have a document or long email to write that is a few paragraphs long try dictating the first draft on your phone or into your laptop. You’ll save a stack of time and the more you use dictation the better the software gets at transcribing what you say.

Let me know your productivity tips and perhaps I could include them in a future post.