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RIBA changes tack on ARB abolition

The RIBA has voted to change its strategy on the Architects Registration Board (ARB), agreeing to lobby government for a slimmed down version of the quango rather than its outright abolition

The institute’s previous policy from 2009 set out how it wanted ‘to maintain protection of title’ but with that task transferred from the ARB to the RIBA - a switch which would effectively spell the end for the board.

However the RIBA Council, at its meeting on Wednesday (19 March 2014), agreed a revised strategy to keep a pared-back ARB as an ‘independent minimal registration’ body, but with other functions potentially shifting across to the institute.

The move comes as the ARB prepares for its three yearly review by the government.

A senior source said: ‘This decision is significant and politically very clever. Most businesses and professions have independent regulators and the periodic review managed by government would be unlikely to abolish ARB.

‘[However] the DCLG seems to want a slimmed down version with less duplication. The RIBA’s position allows the government to keep the regulator, protect the consumer but enable the institute to do everything else like validation and prescription of education, CPD and matters of discipline.’

A spokesperson for the RIBA said: ‘[The council] raised concerns about the current implementation of the Architects’ Registration Act by the ARB and wished the RIBA to resolve issues relating to professional conduct, prescription and validation of qualifications (UK and international) and a clear definition of the minimal remit of the registration body, as part of the review.’

RIBA president Stephen Hodder added: ’[The] council has given a clear steer for the RIBA team to represent the views of the RIBA membership in the forthcoming government review.

There’s an opportunity to improve the performance of the ARB

‘There is an opportunity through this review to improve the regulation of architects for the public benefit and to improve the performance of the ARB to provide value for money for the government, architects and for the public.

‘I am leading the RIBA’s negotiations with the ARB and the RIBA’s submission to the review and believe there is a strong chance of achieving positive change which will benefit everyone.’

Karen Holmes, interim registrar and chief executive of the ARB said: ‘We welcome the positive decision of the RIBA Council which recognises the importance of independent regulation of architects. 

‘ARB’s remit has always been to protect the users and potential users of architects services’ and to support architects through regulation.’

Meanwhile it has emerged that the ARB will not be recruiting a new registrar until the governmental review has been concluded.

The previous registrar and chief executive Alison Carr left the board in February after seven years at the helm.

ARB chairman Beatrice Fraenkel said: ‘The board feels that it is right to await the outcome of the periodic review prior to progressing with the recruitment of a registrar and chief executive of the ARB.’ 

Further comment

Warren Whyte, RIBA councillor
‘There is a strong case to reduce duplication between RIBA and ARB in some areas. The ARB could consider delegating its prescription of courses to the RIBA which would reduce costs and be more efficient for schools of architecture. There may be other areas but this would need careful consideration, such as discipline where the ARB needs to fundamentally review it’s own processes, or sub contracts the RIBA to undertake this role. 

The ARB will only regain trust if it is more efficient

‘If we keep the ARB, which council has now agreed, it will only regain the profession’s trust if it is more efficient, professional in its dealings with its registrants, and maintains the register in the simplest and lightest touch possible.’

Jane Duncan, RIBA presidential candidate
‘The RIBA resolution  was an intelligent and well calculated response.  There is no doubt that the RIBA membership but also non-members are very keen to protect title. It is also clear that the independence of the regulator to undertake the job of protecting the consumer could be well located in a concentrated ARB body. 

‘The duplication of other activities seems unnecessary and would be best served by existing excellent systems in place at the RIBA.  Hopefully the government will see the clarity and benefits of this policy decision’.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Protection of title has done nothing to promote the cause of architects or architecture. It is a fig-leaf for the declining economic and cultural status of the profession. It should go, along with the ARB which would of course be redundant. The RIBA would be the independent representative of chartered architects and fully responsible for professional matters. Its new policy on ARB is a dud, because it is based on a fallacy about other people calling themelves architects. Fraud legislation covers this off. Paul Finch

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  • John Kellett

    The ARB does not currently protect the public from those illegally calling themselves 'architect' and other charlatans purporting to carry out our role ('architectural designers' and 'architectural consultants' etc.). There appears to be very few prosecutions of the many guilty persons and businesses purporting to be architects. How would a slimmed down register enforce compliance with the Law? It needs to be given teeth, together with protection of function for ALL qualified construction professionals

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  • So, Paul Finch, do you really think unqualified people calling themselves architects would get sued for fraud? Nobody ever sues unqualified surveyors or engineers. No need. The titles aren't protected.

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