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Profession slams 'barmy' Tory pledge for annual £2K fee on non-EU architects

Theresa may 3 jpg

Leading figures, including RIBA’s Jane Duncan, have criticised the Conservative Party’s pledge to double the Immigration Skills Charge paid by businesses employing non-EU skilled migrant workers

The promise, published in the party’s manifesto yesterday (18 May), means that medium and large practices would have to pay £2,000 per year for each non-EU skilled foreign national they employ. Small practices would be forced to pay £728.

The contentious move would effectively double the Immigration Skills Charge and has been widely criticised by the profession.

RIBA President Jane Duncan said: ’Increasing the burden for practices to recruit these talented architects from outside the EU is a concern particularly for our innovative emerging practices.’

 ’We must ensure that we can continue to retain existing talent and attract the brightest and the best skills from across the globe in the future,’ she added.

The government introduced the Immigration Skills Charge in April, requiring medium and large companies to pay a £1,000 annual fee for non-EU skilled workers. 

Peter Murray, chair of New London Architecture, described the Tory pledge as ‘barmy’.

’It seems to ignore the massive contribution that architecture makes to the capital’s economy and the fact that it’s success is founded on its diversity and the profession’s ability to work around the world,’ he said.

‘We need to encourage overseas talent to work in London not penalise it’

’I am all for funding training and skills but we need to encourage overseas talent to work in London not penalise it.’

Murray added that, because ’Londoners understand the contribution immigration makes to the economy’, the city should have ’separate arrangements under a regionally managed migration system’.

The Conservative Party manifesto states that the £2,000 per year levy will be used to ’invest in higher level skills training for workers in the UK’. 

Félicie Krikler, director at Assael Architecture, said the Conservative pledge could have a ’detrimental effect on architectural practices and the wider British economy’.

’To be a truly global economy that boasts some of the most innovative and vibrant creative industries, the UK needs to be able to attract the brightest and best from all over the world,’ she said.

’Punishing architects for hiring skilled labour from outside the EU will have a negative effect on innovation in the field and will prevent the sharing of ideas […]This is not the time to look inward.’ 

In the manifesto, the party pledges to reduce annual net migration, currently at 273,000, to the ’tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades’.

It also promises to ’secure the entitlements of EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU’, which will come as relief to many practices.

Earlier this week, leading architects including Richard Rogers, David Chipperfield and Amanda Levete urged the government to clarify its position on EU nationals living in the UK, warning that Brexit will have ‘deeply negative consequences’ for the profession. 




Readers' comments (4)

  • John Kellett

    I am one of many older 'under-employed' architects unhappy with a decade long income freeze. Our careers have been put on old by cheaper staff from the EU and elsewhere. There is NOT a skills shortage in the UK, there is a lack of monetary compensation for UK nationals. An open Europe is a good thing but not at the expense of British subjects. The ARB and RIBA need to get off their metaphorical a*s*s and promote the profession and help practitioners get to fee levels that reflect the service provided. The Government in allowing unqualified persons (in any discipline) to design buildings is acting insanely and is actively promoting the demise of a fine profession, WHY? Any 'waiter from Barcelona' (with apologies to Basil Fawlty) can come to this Country and design buildings without hindrance. The few architects who are 'struck-off' the register for incompetence can, quite legally, change their title to 'architectural designer' or 'architectural consultant' or 'surveyor' or 'technologist' or 'engineer', continue in business without pausing for breath and be better than their 'competition'. Could somebody please explain how that situation is good for the construction industry and professions generally?

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  • Chris Roche

    The profession needs an intelligent, considered, and evidenced based response to the main manifesto's - not just the Tory manifesto. The Labour Party's proposal to abandon student fees would increase student representation from a more diverse pool of talent and should be encouraged, as should a number of Green Party initiatives on the Environment. Why again does the profession appear largely silent at this critical time, and why is housing provision not seen as of equal importance as Health and Education. Critical leadership is the key both political and professional.

    Chris Roche / Founder 11.04

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  • Theresa May sounds more like Marine LePen every day, and sometimes like her father Jean-Marie.
    Indeed the conservatives seem to be continuing to poach the UKIP and NF type electorate through their policies. There is less and less difference betwen them with every day that passes.
    It's strange how one can see the danger in other countires National Fronts and not see the directon one's own country's main stream party is taking.
    The comment above about spanish waiter is far from amusing. Any English waiter can do the very same, and not necessarily any worse than a qualifed architect, employed or unemployed.
    This is nothing to do with the real problem that you need to have a fee scale imposed again by law that will allow you all to earn a decent living from all your efforts (or which will allow you to make a real effort).
    But don't forget to refrain from pointing the finger at other nationals. We all know where that leads in the end.

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  • The profession’s leadership is an embarrassment - chartered practices with multi-million pound turnovers, russian and arab clients balking at £1 per hour fee for the much lauded European talent, is a joke. That £1 will be deducted from salaries no doubt, while directors reap high end salaries to send their children to private schools.
    What is so hypocritical is that any foreign employee should be entitled to a full expatriate package - annual return flights, health insurance and housing allowance, as the Brits expect when they work abroad. One therefore has to take Peter Hitchens seriously when he advises the young to get out of broken, rip-off, britain in social meltdown and class war. Corbyn is the only plausible candidate.

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