CIPFA retains its strength

Your article on CIPFA (25 June) managed, yet again, to put a negative spin on a series of successes. It is beyond me how you could describe our conference as a failure despite the fact that it continues to be one of the largest in the public sector. It has constantly attracted around 1,000 members over recent years, and it has seen an increase in exhibitor numbers.

To then go further and resuscitate that old, mischievous story of CIPFA seeking a merger to stave off financial ruin really takes the prize for unfairness. The truth is that we are in a strong financial position – our #19m turnover and strong financial performance last year make us the envy of many institutes twice our size. Our position on mergers has never changed.

We believe the accountancy profession would be better served by a single body, but all previous discussions have failed to recognise the needs of the public sector.

Far from trying to get the rationalisation debate going again, we have been focused on more important issues such as supporting our members through the massive changes facing the public services. It has been others who have talked up the prospect of rationalisation, and at times it has seemed as though we have been courted by institutes keen to merge with a strong CIPFA.

That, surely, is not a sign of weakness, but a compliment to our strength.

David Adams, chief executive, CIPFA

Running claims over the Big Six are completely untrue

Your item on Piyush Gudka’s marathon exploits (‘Taking Stock’, 25 June) was interesting not least because it referred (incorrectly) to him running on six continents.

The six continents are Europe, Asia, America (North & South), Australasia, Africa and Antarctica.

To my knowledge, the inaugural Halley Base marathon has yet to take place!

Colin M Fitzgerald, ACA, ATII – a Sedentary Perfect Melancholy (for readers of ‘Personality Plus’!)

Hanbury Park, Worcester

Size really does matter

I read with fascination Tracy Webb’s statement (‘Letters’, 25 June) about Milton Keynes’ half a million tree-lined avenues and stadiums. I had not realised that it had become quite so large … (ten times as many roads as there are in London, at a rough estimate).

Lissa Allcock, tax librarian, Ernst & Young … I hadn’t realised the place was so large. But then the English ICA accommodates part of its headquarters there. Maybe that explains it.

Graeme Robertson, FCA, York

Re-educate late payers

While your article ‘Late pay bill slammed’ (18 June) alluded to the seriousness of the late payment issue in the UK, it failed to explain what is really needed.

You referred to a survey which claimed 70% of businesses supported the bill. Research conducted by Sage among 1,000 small businesses suggests that even if this is the case, only half would enforce the new law. Of those who said that they would not, 42% felt the legislation was irrelevant to their business and 39% feared it would upset customers. Only 2% of those surveyed, believed the late payments law will help businesses like theirs.

In order to stop the tendency towards late payment, the government needs to make commercial debt recovery easier and educate businesses in how to pay creditors. A move to statutory interest may work, but our research shows there are more immediate ways to ensure timely payment.

Mark Searles, director, The Sage Group plc

Living on the edge

Those delegates and organisations referred to in your review of the CIPFA conference (25 June), who expect the institute to provide trainees with the necessary ‘hard edge’, are abrogating their own obligation to trainees.

The hard edge comes from practical experience, which can only be provided by practitioners in the workplace.

Your constant carping at CIPFA has become tedious and predictable and detracts from an otherwise excellent publication.

Mike Ellsmore, director of finance, Bexley Council

Hope n’ faith in charity

The number of charities going into receivership may have increased significantly (18 June, page 3) in percentage terms, but the number when compared with commercial companies is infinitesimal.

Certainly much of the new legislation has not been helpful, and has not added to the quality of financial control in charities. What is more important, however, and perhaps missing from your quote by Nigel Scott, is that trustees are ultimately responsible for the management of charities, and – in some charity sectors – there is too much competition.

Trustees in all charities need to be professional. Often they do not have the requisite expertise or training. Most people becoming trustees do so to be associated with the cause, rather like a decorator goes into business to paint, not to run a business per se. If the trustees fail to take guidance from salaried professionals, the charity suffers and the consequences have to be borne by the professionals, while trustees may move on to other unsuspecting charities.

The advent of competition and increasingly sophisticated targeting of donors places the finance function under even more pressure. The rise of the contract culture – what I would call quasi-charities – adds another new dimension to charity accounting.

There is much to be done to continue the good work of the Charity Finance Directors Group, as well as improve the quality of service offered by the Charity Commission, and it needs to be clarified as to exactly what is its remit.

Russell Brown, London E9

Eight, seven, six, five …

Well, there you have it (18 June, page 1) – yet another prediction of the demise of the middle tier. Similar predictions were being made when I was in articles with a Big Eight firm 20-plus years ago, and they have continued ever since.

In reality, what happens? Stronger firms survive and prosper and weaker ones go out of business. That applies if you were a Big Eight firm – now a Big Five; or if you are in the middle tier; or if you are a smaller partnership or a sole practitioner.

We are all, big, middle and small, operating in rapidly changing, competitive market places. Over the next few years, competition will increase and the market will grow. Much will change, but one thing is certain: in another 20 years, you will have firms that are big, firms that are of medium size and firms that are small.

John Roberts, managing partner, Chantrey Vellacott, London WC1

The Loan Crusader

You ran an item recently on my charge to NatWest for half an hour of my time (‘Taking Stock’, 21 May), which it paid (#30). Well, how’s this for one better? A credit for #2,574 was mislaid and reached my account ten days late. I charged them the 29.5% unauthorised borrowing rate for the duration.

The first manager told me where to go. I advised him to reconsider. He refused to do so, so I went further and received #20 for the interest fee. Of course, being generous, I waived the #3.50 daily bank charge.

Another management career bites the dust!

Norman Younger, FCCA, Manchester

All letters should be sent to:

The Editor, Accountancy Age,

VNU House, 32-34 Broadwick Street, London W1A 2HG

Tel: 0171 316 9236

Fax: 0171 316 9250

Or email us on:

Accountancy Age welcomes readers’ letters, but reserves the right to edit them for space or clarity. Please include your title, organisation and a daytime telephone number.

Related reading