Kevin Reed, Accountancy Age, Thursday 5 August 2010 at 00:15:00

ICAEW overhaul of support services may leave a "black hole" for communicating with smaller practices

A crucial few months await the ICAEW?s smaller practitioners, as the institute looks to overhaul its structure for providing them with support services.

The institute has disbanded its advisory board system, including the practice arm, in an attempt to come up with a more streamlined system of dealing with the various strands of its membership.

Peter Mitchell, ICAEW council member and chairman of the Society of Professional Accountants, representing smaller firms, said the advisory boards ?haven?t been helpful or constructive in the main? since they were introduced four years ago. ?It acted as a blocking filter,? said Mitchell.

A new structure must be in place by the early months of 2011, or leave a ?black hole? for communicating with small practices. It must have appropriate representation to promote them, he added. The board previously operated with former E&Y senior partner Nick Land as chairman.

Mitchell said: ?Our principle concern was [the ICAEW] identified someone very high up ? who would not necessarily have relevant experience or understanding of the needs and pressure of high street accountants.?

Mitchell, who said there was ?considerable goodwill on both sides? to create a successful strategy, refused to comment on whether he would apply for a role in any new structure.
</br> An institute spokesman said the advisory boards had been of value, and the institute ?learned a lot from them?.

The ICAEW wants to maintain a channel of communication with practices, lauding the national practitioner forums created through the Practice Advisory Board.

But he said that a timescale for the introduction of a new service for practitioners has not been set, adding it was more important to get it right than rush through a new scheme.

The institute is also set to introduce a chief executive?s advisory panel of up to
</br> 20 members, supporting thinking on sub-groups of its membership.