Over a number of meetings, the Board has carefully considered ways in which the annual retention fee could be kept as low as possible, whilst still enabling ARB to meet its responsibilities. The increase will mean architects paying an additional 36p a week on the current level of £80 a year, resulting in the annual retention fee for 2013 being £98.50.
The fee remained at the same level between 2009-11, and in 2011 it was dropped by £6 to take account of the economic environment in which the profession was working, bringing the fee down to £80. The Board was able to hold the fee at this reduced level in 2012 by making significant efficiency savings, running a deficit budget for the year and drawing heavily on financial reserves to assist in funding the delivery of its statutory responsibilities.
The Board indicated at the time that it would be the last point at which the fee could be held without it impacting on ARB’s statutory duties.
The Board took all these issues into account when setting the fee for 2013, and noted that had the fee kept in line with inflation, the 2013 fee would be £99.43.
Speaking after the Board meeting, Chair Beatrice Fraenkel said:
“No regulator likes having to increase its retention fee, but we recognised that a failure to do so on our part would have a severely detrimental effect on our ability to deliver our statutory duties under the Architects Act. We were, however, resolute about keeping the increase to the barest minimum, while still ensuring that we could meet our obligations under the Act. ARB’s retention fee has always been one of the lowest fees paid by any professional, and we were determined to keep it that way to minimise as far as possible the financial burden on architects.”
RIBA President, Angela Brady, added:
“The retention fee should be seen as an integral part of a practice’s overheads, and ARB has done well to hold the fee at the same level for two years running. They are making every effort to contain costs through careful budgeting and by investing in technologies that deliver efficiency savings. I appreciate that increasing the fee was a difficult decision for the Board to take, but it is a decision that I fully support. Now we all face the real increased costs of providing the best service for consumers and architects which adds value to our profession and to the public.”
Notes for Editors
ARB has prepared a series of frequently asked questions about the retention fee increase. Click here to read.
The reserves were also used to fund the expenditure in ARB’s complaints investigation work, an area which is wholly demand-led and which has seen a significant rise in the number of cases considered by the Professional Conduct Committee. Trends indicate that complaints are likely to stay at this higher level in 2013, meaning that the budget will need to reflect not only this, but also the need to rebuild ARB’s reserves to their minimum level. The Board’s policy is to hold four months’ operating costs in reserves to mitigate risks to the organisation, and this is in line with the level of reserves ARB’s sponsoring government department, Communities and Local Government, expects the organisation to hold.
To mitigate increasing costs elsewhere, ARB is continuing to look for, and make, efficiency savings. Staff salaries have seen a two-year pay freeze, and in 2010, Board members agreed a reduction in the level of attendance allowance they claim for working on Board business. Further savings have been made in printing and postage costs with the move towards electronic media communications, and the development of online systems has helped to deliver a service that is both efficient and cost-effective. Securing efficiency savings continues to be an ongoing priority. ARB will always seek to procure services that offer value for money, and while many suppliers have held their costs at the same level for the past two to three years, they cannot do so indefinitely and a slight increase in costs is expected in 2013.
Although ARB’s workload is increasing – the Register is the largest it has ever been, an ever- increasing number of new institutions are approaching ARB with a view to seeking prescription, complaints are growing both in number and complexity, and work on regulating use of title is burgeoning – ARB’s staff headcount of 21 has remained the same since it was reduced from 22 in 2010.
ARB is the statutory body established by Parliament under the Architects Act 1997 to regulate the UK architects’ profession in the public interest. The Act requires ARB, among other things, to:
• Maintain and publish the Register of Architects (Section 3)
• Prescribe qualifications for entry to the Register of Architects (Section 4)
• Deal with competence to practise (Section 9)
• Issue a Code which lays down standards of professional conduct and practice (Section 13)
• Regulate use of the title “architect” and take action when it is being used unlawfully (Section 20)
• Acting as the UK’s competent authority for architects under the Professional Qualifications Directive (Section 1A)