Serious concerns about architects are rare. On the limited occasions they do occur, as the UK regulator we are here to ensure standards, and therefore trust, in the profession is maintained. We hope the information published about conduct and competence decisions provides useful learning points for others.
A hearing of ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee concluded on 11 February 2020 with the erasure of Mr Glen Eldridge of Glen Eldridge Architects in Hockley, Essex following a finding of unacceptable professional conduct.
Two clients separately appointed Mr Eldridge to provide architectural services on their projects. In the course of his work, Mr Eldridge asked both clients for money for planning applications fees, and asked one client for money for a structural engineer’s fee. Following his failure to pay these fees to the relevant parties, or deal with their complaints, both clients raised concerns with ARB.
It was alleged that Mr Eldridge:
- Did not pay planning application fees (having asked for and been paid those fees by his clients);
- Failed to carry out work without undue delay;
- Did not keep his clients informed about the progress of the work;
- Did not deal with complaints about his professional work appropriately;
- Acted dishonestly and without integrity in that he knowingly used client money to pay a third party and/or a personal debt, despite informing the client that their funds had been submitted to the Council on their behalf;
- Did not cooperate fully and promptly with the regulator;
- Did not report the liquidation of his company to the regulator;
- Did not hold adequate and appropriate insurance and did not provide evidence of that insurance to the regulator;
- Acted dishonestly and without integrity in that he accepted funds from the complainant for work which was not undertaken;
- Acted dishonestly and without integrity in that he knowingly used client money to pay a third party and/or a personal debt.
Mr Eldridge did not attend the hearing nor was he legally represented. In his absence, the PCC took the allegations and all its particulars to be denied. It heard live evidence from Mr Eldridge’s two former clients, which it found to be both credible and consistent.
The PCC found all but one of the facts proven. Mr Eldridge had not provided any details of insurance, but the PCC considered this fell within the charge of failing to provide details and of failing to cooperate with the regulator rather than having no insurance. The PCC considered the failings individually and collectively to be serious and concluded that they amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.
When considering sanction, the PCC noted Mr Eldridge’s previously good disciplinary history, and that he had been experiencing serious difficulties in his personal life. However, it also considered that Mr Eldridge’s misappropriation of client money, his dishonesty, subsequent lack of apology and failure to reimburse his clients or co-operate with his regulator demonstrated that he was not a fit person to remain on the Register.
The PCC decided that the protection of the public and the reputation of the profession required that Mr Eldridge’s name should be erased from the Architects Register. When issuing the sanction of erasure from the Register, the PCC must make a recommendation on the length of time that must pass before an architect can seek to re-join the Register, the minimum being two years. Due to the severity of Mr Eldridge’s offences and the dishonesty he displayed, the PCC recommended that no such application should be considered for 10 years.
A copy of the decision can be found here.
Notes for Editors
• The Architects Registration Board (ARB) is the statutory body established by Parliament under the Architects Act 1997 to regulate the UK architects’ profession in the public interest.
Among other duties, the Act requires ARB to:
– Maintain the Architects Register
– Prescribe the UK qualifications needed to become an architect in the UK
– Issue a code laying down the standards of professional conduct and practice expected of architects
– Investigate allegations of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence
– Investigate and where appropriate prosecute unregistered individuals who unlawfully call themselves an architect
– Act as the UK’s Competent Authority for architects
• ARB has a Board of 11 members all appointed by the Privy Council. This includes one lay, non-executive Chair and ten non-executive Board members made up of five members of the public and five architects.
• The PCC is established under Schedule 1, Part II of the Architects Act and is required to consider any report referred to it. The PCC determines whether an architect is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence.
Where a guilty finding is made, the PCC will consider whether to make a disciplinary order, which means:
– a reprimand
– a penalty order
– a suspension order (to a maximum of 2 years); or
– an erasure order
• Money raised by fines imposed by the Professional Conduct Committee is paid to HM Treasury.
For further information, please contact Kate Howlett (ARB Communications Manager) on 020 7580 5861 or by email at KateH@arb.org.uk.