Leader – Influence matters, not titles

At first glance the government’s decision to set up a business hit-squad to root out public-sector inefficiency sounded more like another attempt to grab a silly season headline than a desire to tackle a real problem. But the roll call of what has been dubbed the Magnificent Seven by Treasury officials suggests this task force will wield more influence than most.

As well as English ICA president Dame Sheila Masters, the panel will also boast GEC’s John Mayo and Pearson’s John Makinson – FDs of two of Britain’s more high-profile companies.

Also participating is Andrew Foster, not an accountant but controller of the Audit Commission, which has done more than most to improve public-sector financial management over the last decade.

That ministers have lent so heavily on the profession to provide money-saving advice – an £8bn target is suggested – is a testament to the increasingly high regard in which accountants are held within the upper echelons of government and business.

Hopefully that message will reach Moorgate Place. English ICA council members spent last week debating whether chartered accountants should be called chartered accountants, suggesting a fundamental insecurity within the profession. What an accountant is called does not worry the wider world which is happy to give them more influence. So why should it worry the profession?

After all influence – not merely titles – is what really matters.

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