News in Brief – 1 April

Thorne exits Sainsbury’s

J Sainsbury group finance director Rosemary Thorne is leaving the company following a restructuring of the group which will establish separate finance functions. Thorne, who has been with Sainsbury’s for seven years, has chosen to pursue ‘other opportunities’. The group is looking for a successor externally.

Entrepreneurs not convinced Just 12% of entrepreneurs believe that the government will achieve its goal of creating a society which encourages them to succeed. According to MORI research conducted for Ernst & Young, 57% of entrepreneurs believe in the government’s good intentions, but not in its ability to make an impact. The survey also reveals the government needs to do more to convince entrepreneurs of the value of employee share schemes.

Accountant to head Lottery The National Lottery Commission has appointed a public-sector accountant as its first chief executive. Mark Harris, who was previously at the Audit Commission and the National Health Service, will take up his post in mid-April.

Air Miles ‘are just a bribe’ A tax on British Airways’ Air Miles is being demanded by easyJet chairman Stelios Hagi-Ioannou. Describing the scheme as no more than a ‘bribe’ for people travelling at their firms’ expense, Hagi-Ioannou said that from the government’s point of view, ‘It is unbelievable it remains tax free’.

Freight sale ‘best option’ National Audit Office head Sir John Bourn has endorsed the sale of Railfreight Distribution as ‘the best option for securing the future of the business’. Sir John said that, compared to the alternatives of closure or continued public ownership, privatisation provided a financial benefit of at least #15m.

New blood for awards The Queen’s Awards for Export and Technology are to be jazzed up in a bid to attract more finance-sector companies. At the beginning of the 1990s, more than 1,000 businesses applied for the export award every year. Last year, the figure dropped to 864. Smaller entrepreneurial firms, service industries and the UK arms of multinationals could be eligible for the revamped awards.

Salaries up by 4.5% Accountants’ salaries have risen by an average of 4.5% this year, the highest rate for five years, according to a survey from financial recruitment specialist Robert Half International. The largest salary rises (6.1%) came in the finance sector, the lowest in the public sector and charities (3.6%). The survey predicts, however, that salary hikes will drop to 3.7% later in the year. UK accountants and finance directors are the best paid in Europe, according to a separate survey from Management Today magazine. It found the average UK finance director earns #131,258, compared to #119,048 in Germany and #115,995 in France.

IAS boost to risk issues Finance directors may be able to identify risks far more effectively under international accounting standards, according to Standard & Poor’s president and chief ratings officer Leo O’Neill. Speaking at the Professional Bankers Association conference in Washington last week, O’Neill said that IASs would enhance financial discipline and improve the basis for comparisons between companies and support risk-based pricing. ‘Risk varies, and the framework and tools for the constant evaluation of risk is at the heart of an effective financial market,’ he said.

English ICA loses battle The English ICA lost the final stage of its legal battle with Customs & Excise in the House of Lords this week. The Lords upheld earlier lower court decisions, and a VAT tribunal which said the institute’s services were not for profit and should not be liable to VAT. The institute had hoped to set off input tax deducted on the goods and services it purchased.

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