At a meeting of the institute’s governing council on Wednesday last week, there were warnings that the membership was split over the adoption of ‘practice assurance’, a compulsory review and inspection scheme.
Council member Howard Gross, chief executive of Gross Klein & Co, warned the council that 3,000 north London members were set to vote against practice assurance. Concerns centre on the possible duplication of regulation, a cost-benefit analysis and fears that it was too ‘politically correct’.
Meanwhile, the council heard a stark message about what would happen if members rejected practice assurance. Harry Stern, senior partner at FSPG, said: ‘It would pass a very dark and thick shadow over this body.’
A draft outline of the scheme said it would show the institute’s commitment to ‘the highest ethical standards, quality service and business expertise’.
Maurice Ede, chairman of the ICAEW’s professional standards board responsible for practice assurance, promised to correct a ‘communication failure’ between the institute and larger firms over the issue.
He denied practice assurance was political correctness, saying it was what the public expected.
The council voted overwhelmingly to put the measure to a full membership vote in June, where it must gain two-thirds support. A recent survey by the institute showed 80% of members in favour in principle.
But only 14% need be put off by the draft to endanger the scheme, which has so far faced fierce opposition.
Council member Tony Bennewith, of A J Bennewith, said: ‘Members in Chichester nearly tore Maurice (Ede) apart when he first talked to them about it. Since then people have become much more positive.’
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