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RIBA slams ARB over ‘mass strike-off’ of 2,000 architects

The RIBA has hit out at the ARB’s ‘harsh’ decision to kick off more than 2,000 architects from its register for failing to pay their annual retention fees on time

Institute president Stephen Hodder slammed the ‘mass strike-off’ which – because the £105 payment deadline was brought forward by a month to 31 December – saw 57 per cent more architects erased than last year (1,300 architects) for late payment. 

Almost six per cent of the UK’s 34,000 registered architects did not manage to cough up the fee in time, forcing them to pay a £65 charge to re-join the register.

Hodder said: ‘We’ve received many calls from our members questioning the overall cost and value of protection of title offered by the ARB.

‘These are challenging times but the RIBA has been able to minimise our subscription increase to 3 per cent over the past three years compared to ARB’s 31 per cent fee increase over the same period and does not impose financial penalties for late payments.’

The criticism comes a month after the RIBA council reaffirmed its commitment to abolish the register and take over the statutory maintenance of architects’ title. The institute intends to push ministers for the abolition of the board as part of the government’s triennial review of the quango’s functions next month.

Scores of architects caught up in debacle criticised the ARB’s new deadline – pushed forward from March to January in 2013 and then to December for this year. The reinstatement fee was also attacked for being disproportionate.

Architect Ian Hogarth said: ‘I have paid by Direct Debit for 30 years but this year computer says ‘No’. I was sent a reminder on 31 December while I was climbing in the Anti-Atlas mountains.’

He continued: ‘Our office manager is currently having to prove this was paid quite some time ago. For an organisation already low on popularity, and of dubious benefit, [this was] a strange move.’

Maurice Rodger from Kilmarnock added: ‘After 40 years of carefully fulfilling my employers’ and clients’ architectural ambitions without resort to court or any disciplinary procedures, I woke this morning to find myself booted off the register by the bureaucrats at ARB. So endeth an unblemished career.’

He continued: ‘If your ARB fee is one day late, you are summarily booted out. The ultimate sanction is no grace period and no appeal procedure – it’s the steppes of Siberia for you.’

The reinstatement fee explained: What do you get for £65?

  • Database entry, email and hard copy notification
  • Receiving and checking reinstatement forms
  • Statutorily required sign off by the registrar
  • Re-entry to the database, including email and letter notification
  • Updating the online register
  • Answering queries on the phone, email and online chat

Simon Allford of 2013 Stirling Prize-shortlisted AHMM commented: ‘ARB’s ability to alienate the profession would be irritating if it was not a timely reminder that their demise is in our hands: withhold fees, ignore fines and carry on to a world where we are richer and free of irrelevant bureaucracy.’

However some architects defended the board’s actions, with Darren Jones of ShedKM taking to twitter to say: ‘

‘[There were] Plenty of reminders, no excuse for failing to pay on time. We don’t like it when our fees are late!’

ARB deputy registrar and head of registration Karen Holmes said the £65 fee – reduced from £75 last year – was ‘accurate and proportionate’ to the lengthy process of removing and reinstating architects on the register (see fact box).

She said: ‘The Board is committed to ensuring the reinstatement charge is accurate and proportionate.  They are also committed to ensuring the additional work created by the removal and reinstatement process doesn’t place a burden on those who do pay on time.’

Holmes added: ‘Along with every other year,  we have worked additional hours every morning and evening since the 2 January to facilitate the extra work the removals have created.  There is also a significant increase in telephone calls and email traffic as you would expect.’

Around 450 of the 2,043 de-registered architects have now applied to rejoin. ‘Some of these individuals have had the additional fees or part of them waived due to extenuating circumstances,’ said the deputy registrar.


Comment

Ian Morrison

Ian Morrison

 

Ian Morrison from Dundee

A ‘final warning’ letter stressing the gravity of the payment should be essential even the infamously harsh energy suppliers operate a grace period system. December is also a chaotic and stressful time of the year - maybe ARB should move the due-date back to March as it used to be? Furthermore we should ask why members have not paid. ARB appears weak in defending the title architect, yet alone pursuing the whole protected role issue.

David Walker

David Walker



David Walker, Walker and Martin Architects, London

This will obviously not win ARB any admirers at a time when many architects are actually questioning if the ARB is providing value for money, or if it is actually functioning in members interests. However there is no alternative but to pay up if you want to call yourself by the title ‘architect’, and that makes the ARB seem like it has taken this harsh action as a purely money harvesting opportunity.

Matthew Quinton

Matthew Quinton

 

Matthew Quinton, Fletcher Rae, Manchester

A fine is a penalty to act as punishment for not obeying set guidelines.The ARB’s decision to fine architects who failed to pay by the 31 December deadline is completely justified and fair. It notified members of the deadline months in advance, with repeated reminders emailed in the weeks, days and even hours before payment was due. Questioning or moaning about the fine is futile. My advice? Pay up and set up a Direct Debit today.

Peter Wilson

Peter Wilson

 

Peter Wilson, Napier University, Edinburgh

A late payment on a credit card would costs me £12, and the credit card operators are hardly backwards in coming forward when it comes to demanding excessive interest and penalty charges. So what is it with ARB that it can set an arbitrary charge that is 62 per cent of the registration fee, which itself has been increased by £6.50 – or in percentage terms, an inflation busting 6.2 per cent over last year’s fee?

 

 

 

 

 

Readers' comments (4)

  • ARB seem determined to give those whose campaign for its abolition the ammunition they seek to support their case. To change the rule we established when I was a founder architect member of ARB and its Vice-Chairman that, as with most other organisations there should be a period of grace for architects who - despite warnings of the renewal date - for good reasons or bad had not paid up by December 31st, There will be genuine cases where late payment an be justified. Ill-health, away abroad or just overlooked. It can happen. Not to allow any period of grace is brutal and unnecessary. Who complained that some architects were gaining an advantage by not paying until March? Or was this an internal decision - as was the internal decision to charge and find guilty George Oldham for what was alleged to be an unprofessional statement? ARB could possibly justify reducing the deadline to say a month, but abolish it completely and then charge a reinstatement fee - the costs created by their own decision to strike off - was unreasonable and unnecessary. This with the way ARB have incorrectly and unfairly applied disciplinary procedures makes it difficult for us who believe ARB has a very useful and necessary function working with the RIBA difficult to defend. Owen Luder CBE PPRIBA Past Chairman ARB

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  • I have every sympathy with Owen Luder's concerns. As one of the architects of a "minimalist" successor to the unlamented Arcuk, it must be painful indeed for him to see how his vision has been perverted by the ambition and self-interest of this inflated, inefficient, pompous and self-serving body.

    The twin justifications for its creation were to proclaim the independence of disciplinary procedures and the protection of title through the prosecution of those fraudulently claiming to be architects without having gained the necessary qualifications.. In both areas the Arb has shown itself to be maladroit. My own ludicrous prosecution, exposed as irregular in every respect and costing registrants over £50,000 is but a drop in the ocean of a history of unjust cases which have cost the profession literally millions. in parallel, until the ARB Reform Group applied pressure on the Registrar, there were virtually no successful prosecutions for abuse of title, and even now, the situation is farcical, with magistrates courts imposing derisory fines.

    The fact is that in both of its basic functions, the Arb is now redundant. The RIBA has set up a truly independent disciplinary hearing panel of much greater probity, and functioning at a fraction of the cost of the Arb's Star Chamber procedures, whilst the Fraud Act of 2006 allows architects to prosecute those fraudulently claiming architectural qualifications, (including "architectural consultants" not covered by the Architects Act), and able to claim UNLIMITED damages. Thus architects no longer need the Arb to provide protection and are wasting £3million a year in supporting an organisation which is not only pointless but also parasitic, spending over £1million per annum in duplicating RIBA education responsibilities and a similar amount on European legislation as the "competent authority" for architecture. Just think about this; we have surrendered the authority to legislate for our professional future to a quango with no architects on its staff and overseen by a board with only a minority of elected architects who can be outvoted at any time. This cannot be allowed to continue.

    Very soon, the DCLG will be calling for evidence to assess whether the Arb should continue. It has been said that at the last review, the only reason that the Arb did not join the bonfire of the quangos was because "architects wanted it". Every conceivable logic shows that to do so now would be simply crazy. So when the opportunity arises, don't hesitate, tell the government that you no longer want to pay for the privilege of carrying this pointless pullulation on your back.
    George Oldham

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  • I prefer to pay the £100 to the ARB in return for protection of title and upholding of professional standards than pay £400 to be a member of an archaic club.

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  • I prefer to pay the £100 to the ARB in return for protection of title and upholding of professional standards than pay £400 to be a member of an archaic club.

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