Professor David Heald

Media Coverage


David Heald's research has been extensively quoted in the print and broadcast media. Examples are organised below under a series of main headings, set out in reverse chronological order.

On Public Sector Accounting

  • In May 2023, David Heald’s warning about how governments might use contingent liabilities to disguise the build-up of debt-like obligations was reported in the May 2023 issue of AB Accounting and Business, the magazine of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, under the title ‘Contingent liabilities scrutinised’. This was a media follow-up of his presentation on 9th March 2023 at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Working Party on Financial Management and Reporting, a constituent part of the OECD’s Network of Senior Budget Officials. His topic was ‘Why the contingent liabilities of governments need to be better reported and monitored’, the presentation being available here.

On Public Expenditure and Taxation

  • On 25 September 2017 The Times reported David Heald under the heading 'Pay more tax to save public services, says expert'.
  • On 18 April 2016 the Financial Times reported David Heald's oral evidence to the Procedure Committee of the House of Commons, in which he observed that scrutiny of public spending by the House of Commons was relatively lax in an international context.
  • Commenting on the preparations for Alistair Darling's first Budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Economist on 8 March 2008 noted that the fiscal rules were beginning to bite quoting David Heald.
  • On 17 July 2004 The Economist returned to its theme that projected efficiency savings would not be realised, quoting David Heald.
  • After public expenditure had been tightly controlled in the 1990s, the 2000s were a decade of unprecedented growth in spending. Nevertheless, the Labour Government made its numbers add up by assuming very large savings from efficiency drives. On 27 March 2004 The Economist was very sceptical of such devices to make the numbers add up, quoting David Heald.

On Public-Private Partnerships

  • On 18 January 2018, David Heald was interviewed on the BBC News Channel on the day the National Audit Office published a critical assessment of the UK Government’s PF2 scheme for private financing of public infrastructure. The video recording is no longer available.
  • The accounting treatment of Public-Partnerships has continued to be controversial. David Heald was cited in an article in The Economist on 30 September 2017.
  • Pressures on government budgets tempt governments to window dress their financial position, through mechanisms such as Public-Private Partnerships and Contingent Liabilities. David Heald was cited in a Financial Times article on 11 February 2015 on the relative public debt of Germany and Greece.
  • When David Heald gave oral evidence to the Treasury Committee on PF2 (the relaunched Private Finance Initiative) on 5 March 2013, he was asked how the public sector could match the private sector's negotiating skills. On 6 March, the Herald reported his evidence session under the heading ' UK Government urged to rethink public sector wage cap'.
  • Parliamentary criticism of accounting for Public-Partnerships was raised in The Economist on 20 March 2010, citing David Heald's continued criticism of UK practice.
  • David Heald criticised the Treasury budgetary treatment of Public-Private Partnerships as mainly off-balance sheet, following the national accounts treatment, even though most projects would come on balance sheet when the basis for government financial reporting changed to alignment with International Financial Reporting Standards. His criticism was reported by the BBC News website following him being interviewed for a BBC 'File on 4' programme on Public-Private Partnerships. The programme was originally broadcast on 23 June 2009 and the transcript appears here.
  • David Heald welcomed the fact that the UK Government adopting IFRS as the basis for UK government accounting would bring most PFI projects onto the public sector balance sheet, creating a level playing field in financial reporting between PFI and conventional procurement. Reported in the Financial Times on 23 February 2009.
  • Financial Times article on 5 February 2008 quoted David Heald on the public finance implications of most UK Public-Private Partnership projects coming on to the balance sheet when government financial reporting moved from being geared to UK GAAP to being geared to IFRS.
  • There was a huge controversy about the accounting treatment of projects under the Private Finance Initiative. The scheduled 2008/09 adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards for UK central government raised the question of whether more PFI assets would be brought on the UK public sector balance sheet. David Heald was quoted in a Financial Times article on 26 July 2007
  • David Heald contributed an article 'Let's have less bias and better analysis' to a Special Report on Public Private Partnerships, The Observer 28 April 2002.
  • Early in the devopment of the Private Finance Initiative (in effect, Public-Private Partnerships) there was extensive criticism of both accounting treatment and of the value-for-money of particular projects. Under the heading 'Cooking the books', The Economist on 28 October 1995 quoted David Heald.

On Devolution Finance

  • On 21 January 2024, a Scotsman article on the crisis in Scottish local authority finance cited the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Advice Paper on Council Tax, prepared by a working group chaired by David Heald. He described using 1991 valuations for Council Tax as 'ludicrous' and urged the Government and Parliament to rise to the task of Council Tax reform.
  • The Scotland edition of The Times on 20 September 2023 reported that David Heald told the Finance and Public Administration Committee of the Scottish Parliament that he is an advocate for devolved taxation but said: "The UK tax system is a total mess and the Scottish parliament has made the tax system in Scotland worse."
  • After the No result in the September 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum had led to further tax devolution, David Heald warned of future problems. The UK Treasury might adopt an approach to the Scottish tax base that combines malicious actions and malign neglect: competing with the tax base by levying additional indirect taxes and ignoring interactions between Scotland's Income Tax and various other instruments, including Capital Gains Tax and Tax Credits. Reported in the Financial Times on 26 November 2014.
  • In the run up to the Scottish Independence Referendum in September 2014, David Heald warned that the independence debate had temporarily subdued calls for change to the Barnett formula but there was generalised hostility to it in Whitehall and Westminster. Reported in the Financial Times on 21 August 2014.
  • Giving evidence to the Finance Committee of the Scottish Parliament on 25 June 2014, David Heald warned that the UK Government might change the Barnett formula if Scotland voted "No" in an independence referendum. This evidence session was reported on the BBC News website and on Democracy Live.

On Public Audit

  • David Heald was quoted in Public Finance on 6 November 2023 saying that the depth of the crisis in local authority financial reporting in England could mean that it would be a five-year task clearing up local audit backlog due to capacity problems in local authorities and the disruption of the local audit market.
  • Following David Heald's oral evidence to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee of the House of Commons, he was quoted in an article by Kerry Lorimer titled 'Mission Critical: is Oflog up to the job?' in the CIPFA publication Public Finance on 8 August 2023.
  • On the specialist online local government news site Room 151, Jason Holland extensively quoted David Heald’s oral evidence on 15 May 2023 to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee of the House of Commons. This Committee is running an inquiry into financial reporting by English local authorities, prompted by the local audit crisis in England.
  • David Heald opposed the abolition of the Audit Commission and the outsourcing of its work, regarding the narrowing of audit scope as a retreat of public audit. Reported in the Financial Times on 4 March 2012.
  • Opposing the abolition of the Audit Commission, David Heald told the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee that independence is the cornerstone of auditing but is even more complex than in the private sector. He described the changes as a retreat of public audit, opposing the proposal that local authorities in England should appoint their own auditors. Reported in the Financial Times on 7 February 2011.
  • David Heald criticised the abolition of the Audit Commission and opposed the plan to allow English local authorities to appoint their own auditors, regarding this as a serious loss of safeguards. Reported in the Financial Times on 26 September 2010.