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riba presses for tax changes and the return of civic architects

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The riba is calling on the government to revolutionise tax laws and turn the clock back to the 1960s by reintroducing public-sector civic and chief architects.

The institute's draft response to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's spending review calls for a raft of measures including tax and funding changes in the public and private sectors to improve design standards. President David Rock said that tax changes should prompt spending on capital costs and penalise running costs of buildings. He stressed that 'the government should strongly encourage clients to think about saving money on running costs. That will encourage better materials that last longer and don't need repairs so quickly. This will affect the quality of architecture.'

Rock also called for a civic or chief architect in every council in the country. 'It is amazing there are so few architects in the public sector now: they threw out the baby with the bath water by losing all that great advisory talent.'

Rock, who was a civic architect in Hertfordshire between 1973 and 1987, said he used to encourage development in his patch, team building between local groups, fundraising and competitions.

Rock will brainstorm his inner circle of professional advisors - including Lord Rogers, Sir Norman Foster and Nicholas Grimshaw - on the response, which the riba has entitled 'Architecture and Government, A Strategic Approach'.

They will also look at its proposals for two new 'champions' whereby a government architecture minister and private sector counterpart would head a new ministerial committee. 'We do not want a quango or advisory group because that would be an easy way to skirt around problems,' said Rock. 'We need somebody in the government and it needs to be a minister.'

Rock also said the opinions of Royal Fine Art Commission's Lord St John of Fawsley were 'over the top' but useful for the profession because they emphasise good quality. However, the commission needed to be trimmed down and to leave seminars and reports to other bodies.

The riba's official response to the government is due on 2 October and it is inviting comments on its draft proposals. Some of these will be highlighted in an exhibition at the riba. Comments to the riba Architecture Centre on fax: 0171 307 3703.

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