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ARB elections: Stephen Lawrence Trust backs candidates

The Stephen Lawrence Trust has come out in support of two ethnic minority candidates running for election to the ARB’s board

Lisa Basu and Kirk Ray Morrison are the only ethnic minority candidates campaigning to join the board, which currently has no black or Asian members.

According to the latest figures from the Fees Bureau, 93 per cent of architects in the UK are white – a statistic Basu described as ‘eye-opening’.

She added: ‘If we can invest in getting more diversity on the board, that will promote getting people from different backgrounds involved in architecture.’

Basu said her main objective was to be a ‘voice on the board’ for ‘young blood’ and future generations of architects, raising ‘concern’ over the current challenges faced by students attempting to complete their part 3 qualifications.

Morrison said the ARB’s ‘shamefully’ low election turnout – 15 per cent in 2009 and 23 per cent in 2006 – needed addressing. ‘The variety of issues we are campaigning for would help to increase the amount of people voting’.

Both candidates were helped to become architects by the Deptford-based charity, which was set up in memory of murdered teenager and aspiring architect Stephen Lawrence to give disadvantaged young people access to the profession.

An electoral victory would send a ‘powerful signal’ that UK architecture is committed to ‘a level playing-field’, claimed trust managing director Paul Anderson-Walsh.

Stephen’s mother, Doreen Lawrence added she was ‘extremely proud’ of both candidates for standing.

The endorsement comes a week after the RIBA controversially backed four candidates, calling for a ‘minimalist’ ARB operating strictly within the scope of the Architects Act (AJ 02.02.12).

ARB vice-chair and current electoral candidate Gordon Gibb – who turned down an offer of endorsement by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland – questioned whether the RIBA should promote its members ahead of others.

He also criticised the ‘pointless’ ARB Reform Group – which aims to ‘define and restrict’ the ARB’s powers and has held five out of the seven seats available to architects since 2006 – claiming it hadn’t ‘reformed anything.’

But ARB board member and Reform Group activist George Oldham has hit back, claiming Gibb’s stance was ‘as extraordinary as it is unsustainable’. He said the group was responsible for lowering the retention fee, among other reforms.

In a letter to the AJ, Oldham said: ‘It is a matter of public record that the group initiated and persuaded the Board to ratify the following reforms: the prosecution of title abuse and the 22,000 audit of the directories, restricting the wasteful monitoring of PII and Competence, better preparation of the Budget, lowering of the Retention Fee, Abolition of the Working Groups and institution of the Third Party Review.’

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