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RIBA members rebel over ARB's new rules on PII

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RIBA members have called for non-compliance with the ARB's new rules on public indemnity insurance (PII). Contributors to the chatroom at Ribanet have been discussing a course of civil disobedience against the ARB.

One anonymous contributor told the AJ he would not be returning the form confirming his cover. It was time the RIBA 'stood up' to the ARB and lobbied the government to limit the regulator's powers, he said. Another contributor - who works full-time for a local authority and began taking on private work two years ago - said his insurance premiums would rise from about £160 a year to more than £525. With an average income of no more than £500 for the private work, he would be left out of pocket, he said.

Giving up private work would not solve the problem, he added, since he was required to maintain run-off cover at the new level for six years. 'If I had known this was going to happen, I wouldn't have bothered taking the work in the first place, ' he said. The ARB has 'moved the goalposts' and he would consider deregistering 'if all else fails'.

The RIBA said the discussion has formed the longest-ever string witnessed on Ribanet and that the scale of objections received from members to the ARB's PII proposals was unprecedented. In December, the ARB decided to raise the required minimum levels of indemnity cover and to monitor architects' compliance (AJ 6/13.12.01).

The discussions come as the ARB finalises its response to further objections from RIBA president Paul Hyett. In a letter to the board before Christmas, Hyett called for the regulator to reconsider the decision and pointed out the 'considerable' impact of the changes on practitioners with low fee incomes.

In a meeting last week to discuss its response, the ARB board agreed to invite the RIBA to submit evidence that underinsurance was not a problem and restated it would be reviewing the situation in May.

Keith Snook, RIBA director of practice, said the RIBA had already offered adequate evidence from its own insurance scheme, RIBASure - the largest agency providing insurance at lower levels. The onus should be on the ARB to produce evidence, he said, and in line with British justice it should follow the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty'. And he accused the ARB of intimidation in its insistence that all members comply by 31 March. The ARB will give the RIBA until 8 April to submit more evidence.

ARB chief executive Robin Vaughan said: 'We must get the message across that this is in their own interest.'

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