This week’s blogs: the great divide

Vince Cable reported to us earlier this month that debates around the finance
bill each year are very difficult to follow.

This lack of accountability is creating an unbridgeable divide between the
public and private sectors. I am beginning to detect a real resentment that only
radical action by policymakers can resolve.

Take pensions. There are four basic principles of good pensions housekeeping:
affordability, sustainability, transparency and accountability. Demographics and
poor stock market performance have tested these principles thoroughly in the
private sector, resulting in the collapse of final salary schemes. But, in the
public sector, much of the provision is unfunded.

So what is the solution? I am persuaded by the CBI’s call for an independent
commission to look at how we address the issue of public sector pension
provision for the long term.

When one third of council tax payments goes towards paying the pensions of
local government officials it is time to get a grip on this issue.

Above all, we need much greater transparency of financial information and a
simpler way of measuring and reporting public sector liabilities. Only then will
we be able to address this issue in a way which is fair and proportionate to
employees across our economy.

Michael Izza is chief executive of the ICAEW

I was pleased to see that in these troubled times the number of FTSE-100 FDs
who hold an accountancy qualification is now higher than it was a decade ago ­
according to a new survey in the latest issue of our sister publication
Financial Director.

The ICAEW has strengthened its grip, accounting for 55 of the 80 FDs with an
accountancy qualification, compared with 51 of 79 in 1998.

Much, much more interesting was the significant change in the number of CIMAs
in the boardrooms of this elite group of companies. There were 15 in 1998 and
after a decade of expansion in membership and growth in influence, surely that
was a number that would have climbed since?

Not a bit of it. Today, there are only eight.

Some, like Tesco’s Andy Higginson, have moved into very senior operational
roles. But that alone doesn’t explain such a sharp and unexpected decline.

Damian Wild is editor-in-chief and publisher of
Accountancy Age

The UK is facing a budget crisis. I won’t dispute it. But a crisis is a time
to review your assumptions. The assumptions that underpinned our budget must be
appraised now. The follies must go. Amongst them might be the excess of the
finance industry. The belief that money can be made out of money has always been
wrong: it cannot be. I do not dispute that ensuring capital is available for
projects that need it is an essential and worthwhile process. But that is
something quite different from speculation. And the liquidity required for the
former is vastly, vastly less than the liquidity required for the latter.

Richard Murphy is a founder of
the Tax Justice Network and director of Tax Research LLP

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