News in Brief – 25 March

Baker Tilly Manchester merger

Top 20 firm Baker Tilly is to merge its Manchester office with Gruber Levinson Franks on 1 May. The combined operation will boast a combined fee income of more than #6.5m. Baker Tilly Manchester managing partner Andrew Lowden will take the same role in the enlarged firm. GLF’s Alan Tranter will become managing partner of the firm’s Warrington and Chester offices.

UCLAF to be replaced European finance ministers have agreed to replace the existing anti-fraud task force, UCLAF, with a new independent fraud office, OLAF, with effect from 1 June. The office will operate separately from the European Commission and will be supported by a surveillance committee of fraud experts appointed by the Council of Ministers, the commission and the European parliament.

Van Dyck in lieu of payment The Inland Revenue has accepted Van Dyck’s ‘Portrait of Cesare Alessandro Scaglia, Abbe of Stafforda and Mandanici’ in lieu #9.45m in inheritance tax. The Van Dyck masterpiece is believed to be the biggest payment accepted under the acceptance in lieu scheme as a whole or part-payment of inheritance tax.

ASB to harmonise ESOPS The Accounting Standards Board is proposing to harmonise the treatment of employee share ownership plans with international practice, so that share costs are shown as a reduction in shareholders’ funds. The proposal is set out in revised Urgent Issues Task Force abstracts published for comment last week. Abstract 13 requires ESOP holdings to be reported as assets in company accounts, while Abstract 17 stipulates that the costs of share awards should be shown at their market value at the time the award was made.

Seven councils face retender Seven councils have been warned by the government that they face being ordered to retender work currently carried out by internal service organisations unless they meet financial targets for 1998/1999. The councils are: Coventry, the London boroughs of Croydon, Redbridge, Richmond and Tower Hamlets, South Tyneside and West Wiltshire.

PAC draws up guidelines The Commons public accounts committee is to draw up guidelines for future government IT purchases to prevent any repeat of the stream of fiascos which have dogged Whitehall’s computer dealings. Chairman David Davis ordered the report as part of a drive to use the PAC’s knowledge to prevent future problems. GKN chief gets award This year’s English ICA award for outstanding contribution – the 1999 Founding Societies’ Centenary Award – has been given to Sir David Lees, chairman of GKN, the car parts manufacturer.

DTI considers SME threshold The trade and industry department has proposed raising the threshold at which small and medium-sized companies have to file accounts at Companies House from #2.8m in turnover to #4.8m. The move to the maximum threshold available under European law would enable 25,000 companies to file abbreviated accounts.

Colleges get new systems

Britain’s universities and colleges are developing new accounting systems to prevent a repeat of a fiasco at Southampton Institute, where taxpayers’ cash may have been lost in disastrous overseas ventures. Professor Brian Fender, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council, told the Commons public accounts committee that sample investigations at 14 out of 64 colleges had shown such possibilities were ‘rare’.

CISCO code sent out Smaller quoted companies outside of the FTSE 350 have been issued with corporate governance advice by CISCO, the body that represents 2,000 such companies. The code acknowledges the specific problems smaller companies face.

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