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ARB's fee hike 'outrageous', says Reform Group

The Architects Registration Board (ARB) has pushed through an above-inflation rise in its annual retention fee.

Last week, the ARB board rubberstamped an increase in next year’s fee from £78 to £86, a rise of over 10 per cent – almost double the current rate of inflation.

The hike was voted through by the board despite opposition from the ARB Reform Group. The latest rise means the annual retention fee has ballooned by 36 per cent since 2002.

ARB Reform Group member Nick Tweddell called the move ‘outrageous’, while fellow member George Oldham said: ‘The fee has been put up unnecessarily at a time when people are being made redundant and others tightening their belts and forgoing wage increases.

‘But the board is getting its increase -– even though it has £1.4 million sloshing around in reserves. It’s time to draw a line in the sand,’ added Oldham.

ARB chief executive Alison Carr said: ‘The 10.2 per cent [rise] must be seen in the light of the fact that there have been two years where the board decided that the retention fee should not be increased to cover rises in operating costs.’

Other revelations to emerge from the board meeting include an increase in the prescription exam fee from £1,210 to £1,390 (a 13 per cent hike), the establishment of a new CPD competency panel, and a proposed change to the election system.

According to sources, the board wants to stagger elections of architect members to the board, potentially removing them altogether – leaving the choice of architects to the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

Oldham is particularly concerned over the possibility that architect members could be appointed rather than elected.

In an open letter he said: 'There is a fundamental human rights issue here, which goes beyond simple good practice. This is the principle of the ultimate sanction of the ballot box against the rule by unelected servants of the government of the day.

'I was shocked to find my simple declaration of "no taxation without representation" so cavalierly dismissed by so many appointed members who obviously sought to have a unified Board, free of questioning voices.'

Oldham added: 'If anyone should doubt this concern, they need only consider whether under an appointments system any candidate for office challenging the role of ARB would be selected.'

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