News in Brief – 1 July

Thornton on hot spot

The Department of Trade & Industry is considering new complaints against Grant Thornton over its role in the 1994 collapse of housewares distributor Heritage plc. It is deciding whether there are grounds for an investigation under the Financial Services Act for procuring a £250,000 investment from the group’s chief executive Jeff Lampert days before the company was put into receivership.

Deloittes gets bigger Deloitte & Touche has acquired Rutherford Manson Dowds, a nine-partner firm with offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. The combined revenues of the enlarged Deloittes in Scotland will be more than £30m.

Enterprising accountants The role of accountants and the tax system are to feature strongly in a major Anglo-American conference on fostering the enterprise culture at the Commonwealth Institute on Friday. It will be addressed by chancellor Gordon Brown, trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers and US ambassador Philip Lader, as well as a host of American entrepreneurs and financiers.

Help for small companies The Department of Trade & Industry is to merge Business Links and Training and Enterprise Councils into its new Small Business Service. In a white paper published yesterday, the DTI set out plans for the new £100m agency, for which it is now looking to recruit a chief executive. The SBS will vet draft legislation to reduce red tape, oversee the Business Links network and could provide £200 vouchers to help start-up companies cope with payroll calculations.

E&Y gets in on the action Ernst & Young has joined a partnership with the Employment Service and Manpower plc, to bid jointly to run future government Employment Action Zones from April 2000. The zones, which run in 15 areas of the country, enable providers to apply radical and innovative ways of helping the long-term unemployed into jobs. E&Y is offering its project expertise to run the EAZs.

Challenges of primary care Primary Care Groups in the National Health Service are facing a number of financial challenges following their emergence last April, according to the Audit Commission. The commission has called for PCGs to agree realistic budgets and specify service-level agreements for regular updates of expenditure data. The commission also wants to see internal monitoring procedures established to track spending against budgets and reporting areas of concern to the board.

Public sector goes private Public sector finance managers are adopting commercial work ethics usually associated with the private sector as perceptions change, according to a survey out this week. The research, compiled by recruitment specialist Robert Half International, indicated 95% of managers surveyed thought their perception of the public sector had changed.

Internet bias against UK European VAT rules discriminate against UK business selling goods over the internet, Deloitte & Touche VAT partner Tony McClenaghan warned this week. Businesses outside the European Union can sell downloadable products such as software and music free of VAT, while companies within the union have to charge it. UK businesses would suffer during the two years it would take the European Commission to resolve the issue, said McClenaghan.

New approach to rescues Levy Gee announces the launch of a Turnaround Management Service today, devised to respond to business and the government’s approach to steering Britain towards the positive rescue culture that exists in the US. The new approach will enable company directors and other creditors to initiate procedures to turn an underperforming company around.

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