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More than 400 ARB ‘fake architect’ probes lead to just two fines

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The Architects Registration Board undertook 431 investigations into claims of fake architects last year – but secured only two prosecutions

Figures in the ARB’s just-released 2017 annual report showed the huge number of ‘misuse of title’ probes, up 56 per cent from the year before.

Yet the number of prosecutions was down by 60 per cent. The average fine handed out for breaching the Architects Act in this way was a paltry £1,065.

Misuse of the title ‘architect’ has been in the news recently after an expert witness on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, who claimed to be an architect, was removed from his role after it emerged he had not been on the ARB register since 2010.

The ARB said in a statement to the AJ about the low number of prosecutions: ’We work to prevent misuse of title, rather than solely prosecute.

’All 2017 cases that did not result in a prosecution were closed because the title misuse had been resolved, either because the investigation revealed the individual had the right to use the title or because the misuse was stopped.

’We are committed to ensuring the action we take is proportionate, effective and cost efficient. Resolving cases without prosecution can result in swifter and more cost effective consumer protection. Prosecution is only pursued if it is in the public interest to do so and if there is a reasonable prospect of success. The public interest test considers the risk of reoffending as well the extent of consumer detriment the offence caused. Prospect of success is usually determined by the quality of the evidence available.’

Meanwhile, of 136 conduct and competence complaints to the ARB last year, less than a third were referred to the investigations panel or closed within the body’s 12-week target.

Less than a third of investigation panel decisions sent cases to the next stage, the professional conduct committee. Only a quarter of cases making it all the way to the committee in 2017 led to removal from the register, while about a third led to either a penalty or suspension. 

A record 39,987 architects were registered at the end of last year, up 4 per cent from 12 months earlier. The AJ understands that the register stood above 40,500 on 2 July 2018. 

The proportion of women grew to 27 per cent of the total at the end of last year – up from 26 per cent a year earlier, while the proportion of overseas architects remained steady at 10 per cent of the whole.

Fewer architects from other parts of the EU joined the ARB – 945 last year compared with 1,232 a year earlier. This meant the overall number of new registrations was down in 2017 despite a rise in UK applicants.

The number rejoining the register also fell. But there were fewer removals for non-payment than in 2016. The number of deaths of registered architects was down one to 62. Resignations were up from 584 to 648.

The ARB’s total operating income was £4.62 million while expenditure was up to £3.99 million, with employee salaries and benefits rising more than 10 per cent to £1.52 million. Comprehensive net income – operating surplus plus income from investments – was down 29 per cent to £768,619.

Board members received £375 per day attending meetings and committees, costing a total of £96,221, up 44 per cent from the previous year. A further £23,382 was spent on travel expenses.

Three board members claimed at least £10,000 each in allowances and expenses in 2017. 

The ARB said allowances and expenses payments can be effected by a series of factors. ’This includes varying requirements for inducting new board members, which can also affect travel if new members are located further away. Additional meetings can also have an impact. In 2017 additional meetings in relation to the outcome of the periodic review and ARB’s work were held.’

 

 

 

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Readers' comments (3)

  • John Kellett

    Why only two? The misuse of title, and sneakily getting around the law, MUST be ended at the Government's cost not architect's. Those purporting to be architects, often by promoting their clients and acquaintances to refer to them as architects in public, are rife.

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  • The majority of the general public think that 'architectural designers' are architects. The most effective thing that ARB could do would be to spend some of their income on getting a good film company to produce a a short 'public information film' for primetime TV, explaining the differences between the two (in training, skills, liability, risk, and experience etc.). This might be an outrageous suggestion, but may make a good point.

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  • Not at all outrageous Elizabeth! Anyone can call themselves an 'architectural designer', but public perception of 'professionalism' now is that expertise is over-rated and cost is all. We are not alone in this, and the sooner all the professions take public pride in expertise defined by education, training and experience, and thereby by statutory title, the better.

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