The strength of feeling over the English ICA’s disciplinary review, explored further on this page, reveals that something lies deeper than concerns over how members are treated when they overstep the line. Like many other debates which are superficially about something else, it raises the old question of what exactly institutes are for.
With the Gerrard report still warm and his own report on the regulation of the profession awaiting action at the Department of Trade and Industry, this is a question which newly installed president Chris Swinson must be pondering.
It is certainly one that members regularly ask themselves.
Most accountancy bodies have avoided the question by giving a fudged response. This may be a sensible course of action as answering the question clearly is bound to upset a large section of the membership.
Typically, the choice is between being a regulator or a pressure group for members. The disciplinary review exposes this divide again. If the institute is a regulator then it should make its own decisions on how it regulates. But if it is a democracy akin to a trade union then it is an outrage that members are not allowed to set the policy. The fact that both positions seem extreme is a reflection of how hard it is to decide what the other CCAB bodies are for.
The question will not go away, but maybe members will just have to accept it is in their own interests that it is never answered unequivocally at all.