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.
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, 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, 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, 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?