This week, readers seize hold of the purse strings - berating the government for failing to cap public procurement costs and laying into the RICS for racking up huge losses

Get a grip

Building’s “Building by Numbers” (17 February, page 20), in commenting on the wide variation in cost per m2 for recent public buildings, suggests that government has lost control. How easy is it to have a new academy designed by Zaha Hadid for £3,300/m2?

In the sixties there were tight cost ceilings for new hospitals, schools and university buildings. For the latter, one negotiated with a government quango, the University Grants Committee. A little book set out the rules, which included a basic cost/ft2, and permitted gross/net floor areas. Then, were added, if necessary abnormal foundation costs, and provision for specialised engineering services, eg air conditioning.

Evidence that this worked still exists, by comparing the surviving buildings. While many of them are now tired, they demonstrate the strong hand of the then government’s cost control in providing broadly similar building and design qualities. But these constraints still permitted some creative and controversial designs. What happened to cause the government to abandon these disciplines?

Malcolm Taylor FRICS

The root of the problem

Regarding “Building by numbers”, it is a significant step to see the variations in prices. What will really start to deliver opportunity is when we can link these results to their causes. Is it as simple as differences in scoping (Rolls-Royce vs Ford), or other causes … project team skill, methods adopted, contract form, etc? Correlation is not the same as cause.

When Japan changed its public works project approach begining in the mid-2000s, they had a detailed logical map of what was causing the “problems”, how their proposed changes would make things better, and how to prevent damaging side effects. It seems to have worked for them and it would be interesting to see our equivalent.

Ian Hepinstall, via

The RICS offers a poor deal

I am sure there were many other members like myself who were astonished to read of the RICS’ losses in an article on on 7 December 2011
(“RICS narrows its financial losses”). To top this off Building then reported on 19 January of a staggering £98k bonus paid to RICS chief executive Sean Tompkins. Subsequently I then read again in Building, that the RICS has announced it proposes to raise subscription levels. Given many of us are struggling to make ends meet during these tough times this is reckless of the RICS.

I fear that the RICS is more concerned about global expansion than small practices or sole practitioners such as myself. Many fellow surveyors are wondering just what we pay such high membership fees for especially given there are now separate fees for being a registered valuer. Then there are the RICS events. These are often expensive and only held in the main commercial centres which are difficult for many of us to get to without losing a large chunk of the day. Why is the RICS not subsidising such events? What really rankles with me though (not because I am a Yorkshireman) is how on the one hand the RICS charge me for setting up a direct debit to pay my subscription when most other organisations don’t, and yet they have run up such huge losses. If the RICS is to retain the faith of the membership it must put its house in order before it attempts to conquer the world. Above all it must “cut its cloth to suit its budget”.

Jon Steel MRICS, East Yorkshire

Spread the wealth

In reference to your story “Battle for jobs on new £1.9bn HCA framework” (9 February,, this needs to be tailored allocation. Use major firms in some areas in need of large new housing volumes, but localism should take account of local designers, local contractors and local businesses to help regeneration in most areas of the country.

Paul Nicholson, via