riba president David Rock was set to deliver a contentious parting shot yesterday by recommending that future presidents be elected by members of council rather than by the entire membership.
Rock was due to argue in his valedictory paper to council yesterday that electoral changes that he introduced - doing away with council's initial internal voting and bringing forward the timing of presidential and council elections - gave the incoming president more time and saved money. 'However,' Rock says in his statement, 'this has not solved the problem of presidential candidates having to have programmes for apparent radical change, and criticising the riba . . . I believe that further change to the election process is desirable.'
Council member John Wright, an unsuccessful presidential challenger this time round against Marco Goldschmied, said he would support the proposal, which was part of his election manifesto. Standing for president is, he said, 'incredibly expensive. Some people are in a more privileged position than others.' Goldschmied said he would leave it to the membership to decide, but added: 'We are the only institution, including parliament, that doesn't do it that way.'
But Sam Webb, a council member for much of the last 25 years, attacked the measure. 'If you only have people picked by council,' he said, 'there is a danger of it becoming a Buggins' turn. If enough members want somebody from the membership to stand, I see no reason why there can't be an election.'
Rock also recommends more staff and resources for the communications department, setting up a marketing fund, and folding the work of the Brownfields First initiative into the recommendations that arise from the report of the government's Urban Task Force.
Rock issued a document to council members arguing against Marco Goldschmied's proposal to reconsider sending a delegation to the uia congress in Beijing. riba's policy on official travel is always in line with fco advice, he says. 'I believe that the riba is most likely to achieve, world-wide, its objective of the advancement of architecture if it sticks closely to the subject of architecture, and avoids being drawn into the moral and political arena.' He adds: 'I can see that there might be wholly exceptional cases in which it would be appropriate to depart from such a policy. I do not believe the UIA Beijing congress is a case of that kind. That, I suggest, is the question for council to decide.'