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
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Day In a Page

Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference