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Calls to scrap 'city architect' post

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The future of Lord Rogers' position as London's 'city architect' was cast into fresh doubt last week when the capital's elected representatives demanded that mayor Ken Livingstone scrap the £130,000-a-year post because of the potential for conflicts of interest between Lord Rogers' advice and the work of his practice in the capital.

The move followed the revelation in the AJ last week that negotiations between the Richard Rogers Partnership and the Greater London Authority (GLA) had become bogged down in legal wrangles over the same issue.

Assembly members voted 18 to seven against the post being included in the mayor's budget for 2001/2002.Now Livingstone has until 15 February to either abandon hopes to have Lord Rogers at the GLA two days a week or persuade members of the merits of the post and then face a second vote where a two thirds majority could sink the job for good.

Last week's vote triggered a rearguard action from Livingstone and supporters of Lord Rogers.

'If you want the best there are really only two architects of that standing in the country [the other being Lord Foster], ' said Livingstone. 'I think he is uniquely well-placed to give advice here to energise and improve the quality of architecture, planning and design in this city.'

Meanwhile Ricky Burdett, Lord Rogers' co-author ofthe Urban Task Force, warned that the uncertainty has left the influence of architects on politicians hanging in the balance. 'MacCormac, Foster, Chipperfield and Farrell could all do the same job as Richard Rogers but they would have the same problem, ' he said. 'But this advisory role shouldn't be left to planners and academics. To throw out the influence that architecture has gained on a political level because of a conflict of interest is just stupid. This must be resolved.' Local architects have been used successfully as city-wide advisers in both Amsterdam and Barcelona, he added.

Lord Rogers is already an unpaid member of the mayor's advisory cabinet and this role is not in doubt. But many Conservative and Labour assembly members are against him taking the paid position.

Greens and Liberal Democrats are supportive.

'This is perhaps the one issue where we will get the two thirds we need, ' said Labour member Jennette Arnold. Tory member Tony Arbour said the objection is 'simply a question of principle', while Labour member Eric Ollerenshaw called for Rogers to work for free. A spokesman for RRP indicated that he would not be prepared to work for free and said: 'The assembly is attempting to influence Livingstone's financial clout and this particular issue has fallen within that.'

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