Former RIBA president Owen Luder has raised ‘serious concern’ over the way institute chief executive Harry Rich ‘bounced through’ controversial plans to dissolve the RIBA Trust at a council meeting last week
As part of measures to ‘streamline’ the organisation, the seven-year old Trust, which manages the RIBA’s cultural operations including the library and RIBA collections, will cease to exist from the start of 2011 and its functions transferred to a new committee in April.
Luder, who narrowly failed in a last-ditch attempt to defer a vote on the Trust’s abolition, slammed the RIBA for mismanagement of council meetings and for plunging proceedings into secrecy with its ‘indiscriminate’ use of closed sessions.
Luder commented: ‘Quite frankly the management of the council is shambolic and has been totally dumbed down.’
Paul Davis, who sits on the Trust board and RIBA main board as honourable librarian, voted against the dissolution and complained that the timing meant people on the Trust board were unable to debate the issue. ‘The process has been flawed,’ he said.
Davis, who believes redundancies are inevitable, said the wellbeing of the library and collections went right to the heart of the RIBA’s credibility as a ‘learned organisation’. Without a committee structure to take over its management, or ‘concrete fundraising proposal’ in place, concern over cultural assets remained, he claimed.
Meanwhile, non-executive Trust board member and developer Roger Zogolovitch branded the move ‘unreasonable’.
Chief executive Harry Rich defended the move and said the Trust’s winding up was part of an ambitious bid to deliver cultural programming to a global platform and entice wealthy international donors.
He said: ‘Part of the nervousness is an assumption by some people that the RIBA Trust is the only thing that stands between the RIBA and barbarism.
‘As valuable as the RIBA Trust has been, the collections existed a long time before the RIBA Trust existed.
‘The idea that the RIBA collections are not safe in the hands of the RIBA is an odd idea.’
The RIBA’s statement
The RIBA Board and Council have agreed a significant simplification of the RIBA’s company structure to bring it into line with most other charities that have some subsidiary commercial activity. This will allow the RIBA to focus as much energy and money as possible on its outward-facing work, rather than on internal structures. The existing charitable Charter body will have two non-charitable subsidiaries; RIBA Enterprises Limited will continue its business of meeting the information needs of the UK construction industry and the second company will carry out any other trading activity on behalf of the RIBA. Both companies covenant their profits to the RIBA to support our charitable public-benefit activities. The change is purely operational and will not affect the activities currently carried out under the banner of the RIBA Trust Limited or RIBA Professional Services Limited.