Small practitioners have reacted with horror to RIBA's plans for a 16 per cent hike in subscriptions. They warn that the jump - from £250 to £290 per annum - could trigger a mass exodus from the institution as small practitioners see a simultaneous jump in ARB fees and Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) cover.
With sudden rises in the cost of insurance of up to 120 per cent following last autumn's terrorist attacks and this summer's 12.5 per cent ARB increase, the overheads for architects are spiralling.
Small practitioner Chris Smith, a council member for the South West who voted against the increase, said there are many architects in Cornwall - one of the UK's poorest regions - that will really notice the increase. 'The RIBA did not take into account the differences in the regions. It would have been better to have seen a comparison between the big London practices - who just absorb the cost - and the smaller practices who will really feel this in their back pockets, ' he stressed.
One Cumbrian sole practitioner, who preferred to remain nameless, was horrified by the jump. 'The cost of ARB and then the staggering cost of PII is already crippling architects up north, ' he stressed.
'If the RIBA is not careful it will see loads of its members from around here deciding that they can't be bothered with membership. After all, they don't do much for us up here.'
And RIBA council member for the North Clarence Daly is also concerned with the sudden subscription increase. 'It was a bigger increase than I would have wanted to see this year. I thought this year it would have been better to have dipped into the institute's savings. Otherwise we are in danger of pricing ourselves out of the market for some of the single practitioners in the regions, ' he said.
'Council members and people who work for the RIBA can see all the improvements and streamlining in the pipeline. But many of the members will question the increase. There is a danger they will also question whether they can afford to keep paying the subs, ' Daly added.
However, the RIBA said the cost rises are 'unavoidable', despite every effort being made to grow other income streams, such as the institute's Enterprise offshoot. Honorary treasurer John Pringle said further resources are needed if current activities are to continue to expand. The institute is also keen to see its research programme grow and the outreach programme developed to promote architecture to the public.
Most importantly, he stressed that the RIBA had allowed the subscription charges to fall behind inflation during the 1990s. Traditionally, subs represent one per cent of an average architect's income - in today's money that would be £350.
Pringle also said that the institute was encouraged by consultation it had carried out with its regional chairmen. They were, he said, surprisingly comfortable with the idea of the increase.