News in Brief.

Trade and Industry secretary Patricia Hewitt is to announce a radical overhaul of British business on Thursday when she unveils the company law review proposals. The independent review will publish its final report after a three-year consultation process which ended in November last year.

It could herald a rise in the audit threshold to the European Union maximum level of #4.8m.

For updates as the report is published go to

A Labour MP and former IT manager has said the government’s Private Finance Initiative operated in ‘the seedy world of accountancy massage parlours’.

In a special debate in the House of Commons, CIPFA associate David Taylor said he was disappointed at the Labour government’s readiness to subjectively back projects ‘based on figures of doubtful authenticity. He added: ‘PFI does not lever in private finance: it merely allows private shareholders to dip their ladles into an increasing stream of tax revenue.’

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One in three FDs are set to increase their outsourcing expenditure, a recent survey of FTSE 100 companies revealed. Almost all respondents of the survey, conducted by technology law firm Tarlo Lyons, said the extra spending was driven by business expansion. Most respondents were satisfied with outsourcing but may not renew contracts with existing suppliers.

The most commonly outsourced functions are IT support, treasury and finance.

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PricewaterhouseCoopers has expanded its human resources consultancy with the acquisiton of Monks Partnership, an executive and management pay consultancy.

The new acquisition, which advises clients on remuneration of high-level personnel and provides research on management pay to continental Europe, is expected to complement and enhance PwC’s existing HR consulting practice.

PwC’s website is at:

A senior partner at mid-tier firm Mazars Neville Russell has said the emergence of the consolidation movement in the UK accountancy profession signals a ‘desperate conclusion of the old-style goodwill’ system of partner succession. John Mellows said that, in small firms, young professionals are being put off becoming partners by the burdensome goodwill payments that go with partnership and are moving away from practice.

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The new war memorial to commonwealth soldiers on Constitution Hill in London has been exempted from VAT. Government ministers said Tuesday that the charge of #250,000 on the construction of the memorial, which will take the form of ceremonial gates, would be cut. Campaigners for the tax exception, such as trust chairman Baroness Shreela Flather, said: ‘You cannot say to people, give us money we have to pay the VAT.’

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The Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies has issued draft accounting rules for limited liability partnerships. The proposed rules, developed by an umbrella organisation of the six main UK and Irish accounting bodies, come three months after the first LLPs were permitted and will replace a number of treatments commonly used by unlimited partnerships. They include the valuation of former partners’ pensions and recommend contracted work that is uncompleted at the year-end be valued on the balance sheet.

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Business recovery experts from around the world have welcomed competition minister Melanie Johnson’s speech outlining proposed reforms to the UK insolvency system. The speech, delivered at the sixth international world congress of INSOL International, said the UK needs a more modern insolvency system to ensure the price of financial failure is not too high. INSOL president Neil Cooper said dropping crown preference was applauded internationally but the proposed axing of administrative receivership surprised some.

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The SFO is to investigate trade finance group Versailles, which went into receivership in February 2000 and collapsed with debts of #100m.

Investigators are expected to question former chief executive Carl Cushnie.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the company’s receiver, last year filed a #50m suit against former FD Frederick Clough for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty.

See Beating the fraudsters at their own game, page 10.

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