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The debacle of the Code of Conduct

My first column this year criticised the arb's new Code of Conduct. In particular, I challenged Standard 11 (the 'whistle-blowers' clause'), suggesting this was an obstruction to normal justice as experts representing fellow architects in litigation owe a duty of confidentiality which would be threatened. I also argued that staff and partners would be dissuaded from the open reporting of mistakes to their colleagues for fear of being carted off late at night to the gulag; and I argued that pi obligations would be breached by the forced admission of errors, as now demanded by the arb. In consequence, the trust and commitment to team working that is the traditional hallmark of the architect's office, and the validity of pi cover, would both be seriously threatened - ironically, to the detriment of consumer interests.

Well, fear not, because early next year you will receive your copy of a replacement Code of Conduct. The registration board obviously decided that its first effort needed nothing short of a complete rewrite. Amendments or revisions wouldn't do.

So what does the withdrawal of its Code say about the arb? Well, firstly, it can clearly make appaling mistakes: this is, after all, a big-time bungle for a registration board. Secondly, and despite the enormous embarrassment, the arb can be forced to acknowledge cock-ups and put things right.

But don't forget, it's us who pay for the rewrite, republication, and redistribution of the new code, an event which coincides with a 60 per cent increase to our annual registration fee.

I notice that the only architect mp, Sir Sydney Chapman, was shocked to receive the equivalent of a final-demand letter from the registration board in respect of the new fee. This magazine reported his surprise that at a time when increases in costs are being controlled either formally or as a result of historically low inflation levels, the board could implement such an increase without any explanation to those obliged to

pay it.

But, will that fee now stabilise? Of course not.

Firstly, the arb is committed to paying future representatives on school visiting boards some £300 a day. This time has traditionally been given freely by our profession, yet in one sweep the arb will terminate such generosity and add over £32,000 a year to validation costs - and that excludes its fast-growing administrative and staffing bill in this sector. Even academic members of the panels whose time is already covered by their universities will receive additional payments from the arb, straight out of your registration fees. So a tutor who manages three visits a year collects a cool £2700 plus expenses on top of his salary - a nice little earner.

Indeed, there's apparently no limit to the arb's generosity with your money!

Add to this the arb's decision to raise payments to its inspectors for reviewing discipline cases by over 500 per cent (from £100 a day to £70 an hour), and you have another bumper increase in registration fees. As one arb official said when challenged, 'It will cost what it costs.'

Our profession already pays the arb more than £1.54 million annually - no wonder the arb splashed out recently on a lavish £50 per head cocktail party at the Caledonian Function Rooms. How much more will it need? And ask yourself, during your well-earned Christmas break, what do you get for all this money? Sadly, not even effective protection of title.

Have a good break, but come back fighting!

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