OPINION: LEADER – Be at the heart of the debate.

Finance directors of FTSE 100 companies are among the most influential players at the top table of UK plc. But for whatever reason most accountants – whether in practice or business – lack any kind of influence on government policy. By reputation they shouldn’t. How many times have we heard MPs stand up in post-Budget debates and say that the chancellor’s measures have done nothing but serve the interests of accountants? This may give the profession prominence but it denies influence: it casts accountants as the passive victims of government policy and not a group with the power to effect change. Now, in 2000 that could – and should – be changing for the majority who are not involved with the very biggest players in the world of British business. Elsewhere on this page, small business minister Patricia Hewitt acknowledges that SMEs are ‘the innovators and job creators of the future’. Some would argue it is a little late in the day but that would be churlish. It is time for the rest of the profession to capitalise on the acknowledgement and place themselves at the heart of the debate. Firstly the profession should ensure it is properly represented on the new Small Business Council, which will report to trade secretary Stephen Byers on the needs of SMEs. Whether it has real teeth remains to be seen. And of course this should only be an initial step. But scepticism is no excuse for not participating.

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