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Battle looms at RIBA as council fights ‘savage’ cuts in activities

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Love Architecture week and Forgotten Spaces could go in budget cutbacks

RIBA’s elected council is gearing up for a major showdown with the institute’s board and executive over ‘savage’ cuts that have been proposed in membership activities.

Love Architecture week and the Forgotten Spaces ideas contests are among the programmes that could be for the chop as the institute attempts to balance its budget for 2014.

Regional funding is also set to be cut ‘massively’ – according to a source close to the institute, who warned of internal battles ahead of Portland Place’s final 2013 council meeting next week.

The proposed cuts come as past president Angela Brady tabled a surprise motion in support of reformists on the council who have warned elected members are being silenced.

Brady – who said she was ‘not trying to cause a fight’ with the board or executive – explained: ‘The council viewpoint is very important. It’s a good time to air things and plan a way forward, so everybody who puts in so much time and effort is included.’

Her motion – to be heard in secret – is one of several critical motions billed for next week’s meeting. A call for greater council participation in board decision-making will come from Elspeth Clements, renewed focus on procurement reform from Walter Menteth, and a review of deficit budgets in 2012 and 2013 from former president Owen Luder. Council papers are expected also to confirm that the RIBA will finish 2013 with a £300,000 deficit, which follows a £450,000 shortfall last year.

Meanwhile, a finance committee member has said it had ‘grave concerns’ over the growth forecast, understood to be £800,000 for the RIBA’s newly-opened, but underperforming, development office. The RIBA declined to comment on the figures but it is understood the one-year-old department – costing around £500,000 annually and employing five staff – has so far netted £25,000 of its £400,000 target for this year.

An RIBA spokesperson said: ‘The RIBA’s deficit budgeting approach is an appropriate method of maintaining crucial services to members during the worst economic downturn in living memory. Development work, by its very nature, takes time to become established and deliver results, but we are confident that this is the right approach to meet our ambitions.’

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