Surprising decision[QQ] – I am one of the two small business representatives on the ICAEW’s company law review task force as well as being a member of the DTI company law review team. I was surprised to hear about council’s decision to revoke the institute’s support for the independent professional review. There are several reasons I found it so surprising.

Firstly, the consultation document to which we are responding does not ask whether respondents support the IPR. Rather it reports the fact that research is taking place and even these will not necessarily give a guide as to how users will react in practice; the DTI suggests experience with live use of the IPR may be required to gauge that. How can council argue with the logic behind this statement?

Secondly, the institute’s response to the March 2000 consultation by the DTI, which did ask for views on the IPR, made a key recommendation there should be ‘a requirement for an IPR for the more substantial small companies’.

Finally, it is inaccurate to describe the IPR as providing no assurance.

It is, by definition, a moderate assurance engagement, which provides a valuable alternative to the audit for the small businesses.

It is my guess the individual council members voting against the IPR knew little about the subject. It was apparently left until the day before the council meeting to submit the motion, by which time it was too late for the audit faculty to arrange for a representative to be there.

Danielle Stewart, Warrener Stewart, FCA, FCCA

No use in moaning

– I see that Jeff Wooller and his band of happy men are ranting again about his ICAEW subs! (No love lost for Heady, 18 January, page 11) I suggest he reads the Getting Closer to Members report. He will then realise there are no proposals to reduce institute costs.

The proposals contain rough figures but, otherwise, are not costed. Coupled with the arrangements in hand to increase institute staff by some 82 bodies compared with last year, I think he will find there are no moves afoot to reduce costs.

Research in 1999 demonstrated that 70% of members felt it was important for the institute to have a local presence and that district societies are seen to be doing good work. Only 34% felt the institute satisfied their needs.

I am glad to note that Wooller supports our move to have the whole matter publicised by means of a special meeting. This has to be separate from the annual meeting to ensure the subject is not subsumed with other matters.

The membership must be told what is planned before it is too late.

Don Heady, Ongar, Essex

Penny for your thoughts

– I am amazed that a respected accountancy magazine should turn the singular into the plural, particularly in the respect of currency. Your headline ‘Story of the great one pence tax return’, TS, 8 February, talks about one pence. This is like saying the local farmer has one geese.

If you can find one of these coins you will find on the reverse the legend new penny.

Piers Hubbard, via email

Knives are out for Mandelson

– Chris Moncrieff (Corridors of Power, 8 February, page 17) suggests that Tony Blair’s press secretary, Alastair Campbell, helped remove Mandelson from the cabinet.

In this context, and in terms of the relationship between Campbell and Mandelson, a fascinating insight is provided on page 123 of the biography of Alastair Campbell (Alastair Campbell: New Labour and the Rise of the Media Class) written by leading political journalist Peter Oborne.

Oborne explains that, when Campbell first became Blair’s press spokesman in September 1994, he was then concerned about how to control the extensive media briefing operation which Mandelson had built up on behalf of the Labour party over many years.

Campbell happened to bump into Sir Bernard Ingham, the legendary former press secretary to prime minister Thatcher, at a tv studio and, privately, asked Ingham’s advice on how to handle Mandelson.

Ingham’s reply was as laconic as it was brutal: ‘Slit his throat’.

Assuming that Chris Moncrieff is correct in his contention that Campbell helped get Mandleson out of the cabinet it has taken Campbell some considerable time to take Ingham’s advice; but he apparently did so in the end.

Maurice Fitzpatrick, head of economics, Chantrey Vellacott

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