Crunch time for Anstee with the merger issue still unresolved

The issue’s tenacity is a measure of its importance and relevance to the
accountancy profession in the UK. It also reiterates just how crucial it is that
the merger question be resolved.

Last week Accountancy Age ran an interview with the institute’s
chief executive Eric Anstee in which it became clear that another merger
proposal may appear next year. Anstee stressed that the intervening period would
be used to ensure that members of the body really understood why he keeps
banging on about it.

This week Accountnacy Age runs two letters on the pages opposite
calling for Anstee to consider his position on the basis that he has failed to
transform the institute.

No doubt Anstee’s people at Moorgate Place will be smarting from the demands,
but knee jerk rejections will not be enough. That is not to say Anstee should go
– far from it. But in order to properly deal with resignation demands, attention
must be given to their reasons.

Would the institute lose face if it returns to the merger question? If the
vote had been overwhelmingly against consolidation, that might be the case, but
it wasn’t.

In fact, the margin by which the merger proposal was lost amounted to less
than 1% of the vote. With a result so close, and by far the larger number of
votes in favour, it would seem only reasonable to suggest that consolidation
remains something to be considered and to be revisited.

The participants in a vote are always ready to claim a mandate, even when
they lose, but in Anstee’s case the poll was so close this does not seem an
empty claim.

Similarly, should the ICAEW be so quick to dismiss the claim that it is in
denial over its merger message not getting across? As obvious as that may sound,
it is important, because failing to make a message understood does not equate to
the message being impossible to understand.

If it can be made clearer then more people may back it. If you are in
opposition, it is in your interests to ensure the message remains mired in

So should Anstee step aside? The vote was lost by such a narrow margin it
seems risky to start building an argument on such shaky ground, much like the
message issue. But more than anything else, there does not appear to be a rule
of double jeopardy governing institute votes.

There is room to return to the issue – a large number of people were behind
the original proposal and messages can always be better explained.

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