TODAY’S ICAEW council meeting offered a glimpse of an old-established organisation paddling determinedly to keep up with modern life.
Early in the session, chief executive Michael Izza was at pains to stress support for the coalition’s anti-tax-avoidance measures. He pointed to “some areas of tax planning that are no longer regarded as legitimate”, saying the situation has changed appreciably over the past five years.
Attendees raised concerns over constitutional changes that will change the number of council members, demanding to know whether they make a mockery of the upcoming elections that will see half of the council subject to a vote.
The changes come partly in response to dwindling membership in regional chapters, and are intended to better reflect the make-up of Britain’s oldest accountancy institute. In the same vein, the questions were raised over how the ICAEW’s increasingly global membership will be reflected in council composition. President Gerald Russell said a mixed bag of co-opting and constitutional election is currently being used, and promised a paper on the subject within the next six months.
Demographics seemed to be worrying many council members, as Owen Finn raised the issue of co-opting young, female members in order to improve representation. He described the policy as “a fudge” and “an insult”, demanding to know where the young, co-opted male members were.
A number of other issues caught the board by surprise, as Alan Livesey raised the problem of students in China – where the ICAEW has recently opened a new office, to great fanfare – passing their exams without ever having paid their membership. The board was taken aback by the suggestion, and promised to investigate.
The open session concluded with thanks to the council chairman Philip Hollins, who is soon to step down. He was almost moved to tears by a vote of thanks – perhaps contemplating the changes ahead for both him and the 131-year-old institute.
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