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ARB faces flak over 18% fee hike

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Architects have condemned ARB for upping its fees by 18 per cent, with some blaming the rise on the board's expanding role on policing issues such as indemnity insurance. The £10 increase to £65 was made last week. ARB said it was due to inflation and the costs of its statutory duties.

Ian Salisbury, a solo architect in Oxford, was appalled. 'This is disgraceful and cannot be justified by the performance of its statutory functions alone, ' he said.He is refusing to sign a certificate to say he has professional indemnity insurance, demanded by ARB, and feels such meddling may push up its costs.

Small practice champion David Thorp agreed that the ARB was 'over-stepping its remit'. 'How difficult is it to maintain a list of architects' names?' he asked.

John Braithwaite, partner at the Braithwaite Partnership in Haslemere, said the ARB should keep fees down by sticking to pure registration issues.

However, Robin Vaughan, ARB chief executive and registrar, claimed the extra £306,000 from over 30,600 registered architects would be used for the validation of courses. 'This is labour intensive and costly.'

Newly elected ARB chairman Owen Luder downplayed the £10 fee rise, saying it amounted to 15p per week after basic-rate income tax. The annual fee had not changed for three years, he said. But the fee has risen over 200% from £30 since ARB was formed in 1997.

Tim Gough, RIBA's vice-president for practice, said: 'I imagine there are some who will be unhappy at the rise. Monitoring PII is costly and we would expect that to have an impact on the registration fee. But I understand this rise is linked to validation, which is understandable.'

ARB has set up a working party to look at hardships for solo designers and part-timers. 'There may be one or two per cent with difficulty meeting the cost of £250,000 of cover, ' said Vaughan. Meeting the new limit could add around £290 for architects upgrading from £50,000 or £100,000 cover.

Meanwhile, Huddersfield University's wait to see if its Part I course is de-validated goes on. The board decided it needed another validation visit to gather more information. The course was under threat over issues of assessment strategies and the structure of project briefs. Recruitment has been suspended (AJ 2.5.02).

Head of department Richard Fellows said the school would have to recruit 60 first-year students through UCAS 'clearing' in August. 'Each student brings the university £4,000 but you can't put a price on the demoralisation to staff and students.

The ARB system can be anachronistic and confrontational, setting out to find evidence to hang you or set you free.'

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