Maurice Stonefrost: GLC's last Director General who outwitted the Tory government

Maurice Stonefrost was Britain's leading practitioner of local government finance and the last Director General of the Greater London Council. He was a pioneer in seeking to enhance the role and qualifications of accountants, ensuring that their education and training fitted them to act as financial managers and not just technical bookkeepers.

Maurice Frank Stonefrost was born in Bristol in 1927 and attended its Merrydown Grammar School before beginning training as an accountant, aged 15, in 1942. He did his National Service in the RAF (1948-51), and then worked as a finance official in Bristol's council offices while studying part-time at Bristol University for his Diploma in Public Administration. He then moved to finance posts at Slough (1954-56), Coventry (1956-61) – where he came under the influence of its City Treasurer, the inspirational Hedley Marshall, who shaped the careers of many local-government high-flyers – and West Sussex (1961-64).

Stonefrost was an active member of his professional association, the Institute of Municipal Treasurers and Accountants (IMTA). In 1964 he was appointed its Secretary and, over the decade to 1973, he widened its concerns from just local government to cover the whole of the public sector, as symbolised by its change of name to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) in 1973.

His major achievement was to transform his institute into a mainstream accountancy organisation, concerned with financial management of both the public and private sectors. He sought to make accountants aware of the distinctive characteristics of public administration, and how it tackled risk and made choices. He helped make accountants key figures in decision-making. The institute, in its centenary year (1985), recognised his contribution to the profession by electing him its president.

Stonefrost sought to export his ideas about financial management to other countries. As Director of the Foundation for Accountancy and Financial Management he promoted accountancy and its standards to central and eastern Europe, even venturing into Siberia one dreadful winter.

In 1973 he was appointed Controller of Finance at the Greater London Council (GLC), serving first the Labour leader of the council Sir Reg Goodwin, and then the Conservative leader Horace Cutler. He won the respect of both, saving London's finances from the fate encountered by New York in 1975, when it all but went bankrupt. After 11 years he was appointed Director General of the GLC, serving its last leader, Ken Livingstone, and outwitting central government by taking ingenious advantage of legislation to draw into the GLC £200m in central-government grants after the end of the financial year.

Stonefrost enabled Livingstone to campaign legitimately against the abolition of the GLC and he devised the famous maze diagram with hundreds of lines between organisations illustrating how the Government's proposals would cause incomprehensible fragmentation to London's governance. Perhaps his failure to be knighted was because he had embarrassed Thatcher's government; his highest official honour was the CBE in 1983.

After the GLC he was appointed to a number of public and private sector positions. He became Chief Executive of the British Rail Pension Fund (1986-90), where with great panache he invested in fine art and sold its acquisitions for a considerable profit. In 1990 he became Chairman of Municipal Mutual Insurance. When it was in financial difficulties, his safe pair of hands averted its collapse, as they had when he was leader of the team investigating the finances of Liverpool City Council in 1985, rescuing it from the edge of bankruptcy.

He was highly respected outside local government, as was shown when he became Deputy Pro Chancellor of City University. The Speaker of the House of Commons asked him to be Chairman of the Commission on Citizenship and he was an adviser to the Church Commissioners. He was Chairman of the London Pensions Fund Authority, a member of the Architectural Heritage Fund and a member of the Committee on the Future of the Legal Profession. He was a superb committee man but not a confident performer on a public platform: his voice was quiet and calm, not rhetorical.

I saw him on top form as a colleague on the Layfield Committee on Local Government Finance (1974-76). He had a powerful, subtle intellect. He was not a simplifier but a complexifier, seeing the odd angle and contributing a fresh perspective, and cutting through obfuscation. He was not dogmatic or assertive, but spoke hesitantly, with a soothing west-country burr, taking his listeners with him on a journey of intellectual discovery. His manner was jovial and humorous, and he never incensed his opponents, whose follies he observed with wry detachment.

He was a true public servant, a professional to his fingertips, able to serve a range of political masters. He was a model of how officials can work with politicians and win their confidence, and yet not become party political. Like a kindly uncle he helped younger colleagues. He built and worked with teams devoted to him. He was a man of impeccable integrity, insisting that others followed his rigorous standards, But he had great charm, was always courteous, and fun to be with.

He liked flash cars, flamboyant shirts and ties and beige suits – he was said to be colour-blind. In later years he loved to holiday on cruises in distant oceans. He lived in Chichester, and had a flat in London's Dolphin Square, where he was chairman of its Trust.

George Jones

Maurice Frank Stonefrost, financial controller and local-government expert: born Bristol 1 September 1927; Comptroller of Financial Services, Greater London Council 1973–84, Director General and Clerk 1984-85; CBE 1983; Chief Executive, BR Pension Fund 1986–90; Deputy Pro Chancellor, City University 1992–99; married 1953 Audrey Fishlock (one son, one daughter); died Chichester 25 October 2008.

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam