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Making the case for a presidential pay packet

editorial

Who would be president of the RIBA? Long hours, public scrutiny, endless politicking - and no pay. There are plenty of reasons to stand - ranging from selfimportance to a genuine commitment to public service and a desire to further the interests of the profession - but there is no getting away from the fact that the privilege of philanthropy is limited to those who can afford it. Those who feel strongly that the role of president should remain unpaid point to the fact that corresponding positions in our sister professions are also unpaid. But architecture is a peculiar profession in that it is not necessarily the case that anybody who has reached a certain degree of pre-eminence will have been rewarded with an appropriate level of wealth.

A second argument against the introduction of a paid presidency is that it would threaten the 'disinterested integrity'of the role - encouraging those who are simply 'in it for the money'. But it would be simple enough to set the salary at a level which would compensate for potential loss of income without attracting cowboys in search of a fast buck. In any case, since the post would still be elected, it would be up to RIBA members to weed out any 'undesirables'- not that there is any reason to question the commitment of a candidate who would not have stood were the job unpaid. Few people practice architecture for the money, yet, equally, few would willingly work for free. The fact that the promise of a pay cheque might attract additional candidates can only be a good thing - increasing the electorate's chance of finding the right person for the job.

A final argument is that, by becoming a paid-up member of staff, a salaried president would encroach on the turf of the director-general and other permanent members of staff. But it is easy enough to establish the confines of any given role. The limitations of the presidency are suggested by the fact that it is both parttime and temporary. As with any other formal appointment, the president's remit should be explicitly set out in a detailed job description. And it would be much easier to chide a president for failing to do their job if they were not providing their services free of charge.

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