‘No’ to lay majority

The UK’s major accountancy institutes have united to defy the government’s insistence that non-accountants should have a majority on the boards that will oversee the profession’s new regulatory regime.

In a group response to the government’s consultation paper on regulation, due to be submitted by next week, the institutes say more accountants should sit on the three proposed revamped boards covering ethics standards, auditing and investigation and discipline. The government’s proposal, published in a November consultation document, was for a 40:60 split.

Chris Swinson, president of the English ICA and architect of the regulatory regime, has argued for an even split to ensure enough suitably qualified non-accountants can be found to sit on the boards.

Vernon Sore, CIPFA policy and technical director, said the Auditing Practices Board’s even split of accountants and non-accountants achieved ‘a good balance’.

He also raised fears that institute members should not be saddled with soaring membership fees to fund the new regulatory system.

‘There needs to be a limiting mechanism on the amount of money you can raise from membership subscriptions,’ he said. CIMA deputy secretary Jake Claret suggested that the government or stock market contribute funds.

‘If you’re talking about a fixed cost of around half a million pounds for running the regulatory regime, then the profession can handle that,’ he said. ‘But it can’t handle five million.’

PriceWaterhouseCoopers head of professional affairs Roger Davis said he favoured a 50:50 split, but with more emphasis on the quantity rather the quality of the non-accountants on the boards.

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