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Matching words and deeds of RIBA hopefuls

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In Alex Reid's reply (AJ 23. 11. 00) to recent criticisms he offers the thoughts that 'the RIBA needs to change'. But for better or for worse? Or does it need remedial change after the blunders of the '90s when it was laid open to charges of cronyism, poor employment practices and anti-democratic petulance?

Reid refers to a growth in membership of 2,000 or so - hardly a boom. Nor is it a comparison of like with like - the number of architects was largely static on the register, but there was a growth in student membership through the '80s, and the introduction of a new subscriber class brought in between 500 and 600 members. So there was no appreciable increase in the qualified members.

Reid adds that six years ago there were more than 60 headquarter committees, 'an excessive number to oversee the activities of 100 staff ', according to Reid. He thus demonstrates his incomprehension of the principal purpose of those committees.

I certainly agree with tight control of committee numbers, but not reduction to near zero as occurred at the RIBA and has only now been rectified. They are there not primarily to oversee staff activity (a job for the director general and the management, perhaps? ), but to evolve strategies, to exercise delegated authority, to engage the voluntary efforts of members (without which the RIBA would perish), to focus democratic opinion, and other similar tasks.

Reid's 'electronic communications' and 'discussion forums' supplement, but cannot replace the committees. The growth in the former over the past six years is scarcely surprising since the Internet emerged only in the mid '90s - did anyone congratulate the RIBA when it introduced telephones and typewriters?

'Archaic' is Reid's word for employment arrangements six years ago (that time frame again), but was he not reported just before his early departure to be asking the RIBA Council to reverse changes he had made to staff terms because of their negative effects on recruitment standards and morale?

Let us hope that the current and next presidential regimes continue the process of putting right the errors of 'the past six years': moving on to new strategies and restoring a proper pride in the RIBA, so that it may make real progress in its national and global leadership opportunities in the new century.

Peter Gibbs-Kennet, Bisley, Gloucestershire

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