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The Arbitrary Registration Board should be put out of its misery

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We should get rid of this tiresome, incompetent and useless organisation, which replicates the work of the RIBA, writes Paul Finch

The disgraceful behaviour of the Arbitrary Registration Board over the years, and the near-unbelievable behaviour of its registrar in the case of George Oldham, will be grist to the mill of good governance as Whitehall finally probes the utility and competence of this absurd organisation.

It is unfortunate that some good people have given time and effort to ARB, in the belief that it upholds professional values, protects the public and benefits architectural education. It does none of these things. What it does do is act as a leech on architects by subjecting them to compulsory taxation with only half representation, since 50 per cent of the ARB board is appointed by the Privy Council. So much for democracy.

Apart from keeping one of the world’s most useless lists - of people entitled to call themselves architects (but ignoring golf club architects, naval architects, software architects, architectural designers and architects of their own misfortune) - ARB does little of genuine value. If an architect has behaved incompetently, thereby costing you money, you will have to get financial redress through the courts - real courts of the land, that is.

After that, ARB may run the architect through its own kangaroo court procedures, pretty much acting as prosecutor, judge and jury. I suspect the civil servant leading the inquiry will be quite shocked by some of the evidence likely to come his way - that is if the architects concerned can summon the will-power to drag themselves through what is now old, and frequently unpleasant, history.

What ARB does in practice is to assume guilt once a complaint has been made, and force the architect to prove their innocence. It does not seem too choosy about the people it has used to investigate complaints, and they are well aware that without ‘prosecutions’, the need for a registration board of the ARB type might be called into question. These prosecutors want a result for their client.

Needless to say, the Hallam Street propaganda machine trumpets the tin-pot triumphs of kangaroo-land, but is silent about failed complaints, and the frequently vindictive and time-wasting that has accompanied them.

It is very keen on talking about ‘reprimands’, like a tenth-rate nanny, but will never state that, even where a complaint is upheld (incredibly rare), there is nothing at all that the ARB can do to recompense the aggrieved party.

This may be why the registrar took it upon herself to launch a complaint against George Oldham in respect of a private email reference he made to ‘ethnics’ standing for election to the ARB board. None of them complained, nor apparently did any architect, nor any member of the public. When there is a clear interest in the board pursuing as many cases as possible to make itself look busy, one must question whether the registrar is the right person to launch a complaint. Elected and appointed members of ARB should be scrutinising this outrageous behaviour. I wrote about this matter when it first arose, and nothing that has happened subsequently changes my view that ARB has abused its own processes.

By its failure to make any amends (or retract its vindictive and unjust ‘verdict’) ARB has shown itself unfit to remain as a body funded by taxpayers - which architects most certainly are.
We should get rid of this tiresome, incompetent and useless organisation, which replicates the work of the RIBA wherever it can and, by its uncontrolled fee increases, is trying to rival an independent charity which has a real public interest remit. Few tears will be shed if ARB goes, and none at all by me.

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