A rearguard action against proposals to diminish the role of the 60-strong RIBA Council failed last week as the institute's ruling body voted in favour of the modernisation of its constitution.
Following a fraught three-and-a-half-hour session, the council handed its board increased powers and the ability to recruit high-profile outsiders. It also gave it power to make decisions on policy and spending. Council will remain the RIBA's ultimate authority but will now take a back-seat role in everyday matters, concentrating on major issues of policy and on long-term business issues such as the approval of corporate and business plans. Supporters of the plan say that it will allow council to spend more time debating architectural policy rather than overseeing the day-to-day intricacies of the management and regulation of the institute.
But opposition to the measure came from all sides of the chamber. 'We are voting ourselves out of a job, ' said Peter Bradley, while both Jim Cuthbertson and presidential candidate Brian Godfrey rejected the idea of introducing outsiders to the board. Colin James warned that the proposals were ill thought through, in particular that their affect on the role of council members as trustees had been neglected. 'In this paper's cavalier treatment of trustees, the institute could be left with something it might live to regret, ' he said.
However, president Marco Goldschmied claimed that the proposals would bring the management of the RIBA into line with the modern world. 'A committee of 63 people [council] is somewhat ponderous and cumbersome for this modern age and that is the key factor driving this approach, ' he said. The proposals had been almost six months in discussion and look set to come into effect in July, when the first non-council members will be drafted in to help manage the institute. The Privy Council is due to ratify the changes to the institute's by-laws, which were voted through to enable the constitutional change.