Members from across the whole of the organisation feel the RICS is morphing from an elected body for the members into a quango wannabe

You could never accuse the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors of settling for an easy ride with its members – especially its QS members. Its 1999 Agenda for Change report led to an end to the QS division and a flurry of spats – from which the dust has only recently settled. (The reinstatement of the word QS and removal of the word “faculty” from the title of the group no doubt helped). Now we appear to be going through phase two of its shake-up which could prove as acrimonious as the first. There are a number of things that have riled the membership.

We have a new pathway for those with the right technical skill and experience to become chartered even if they do not hold a degree. Their competence will be assessed and they will receive an Assoc RICS qualification, a stepping stone to full chartered status. Critics, of whom there are dozens on our website, feel it is a backward step. If the RICS wants to elevate the profession, then why dilute the entry requirements? But then, what is wrong with those with the necessary technical competence becoming chartered as long as the standards are upheld?

Then there are proposals to make up the membership of many of the governing boards by appointment rather than by election. Unsurprisingly, members from across the whole of the organisation feel the RICS is morphing from an elected body for the members into a quango wannabe.

Finally there’s the decision to leave the Construction Industry Council. Many QSs feel that despite being one of the biggest groupings of the RICS membership, they are treated as the Cinderellas of the organisation. But leaving the CIC would be a disaster, leaving no unified voice for construction professionals. It could even lead to the CIC’s demise. The RICS may be putting more emphasis on new forms of measurement, guidance and support for QSs, but its PR is lousy and this only sends another signal that it doesn’t care about those in construction.

The RICS has clearly set its sights on being more business-like. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But it misses the point: it has an unchallenged, monopolistic position, and members, happy or not, have nowhere else to go. Proposals to set up an alternative body have floundered once – so who would try again? Members can of course get more involved with the RICS, but what’s to say, under the current proposals, that they get a place on any committee that counts?

Few would envy the job of pleasing the RICS’ 100,000 or so very diverse members, but there’s always a danger with strong leadership that it can disenfranchise membership, and the RICS needs to ask if it’s still in touch.

Denise Chevin, editor

Learning to love pfi

The Conservatives’ plan to overhaul the private finance initiative will no doubt be music to the ears of all those critics of the costs that have become associated with it. But the reality is that any attempt to do this can only really be a rebranding exercise. With the government reliant on private sector money if it wants to build any hospitals and schools at all, it has no option but to keep using the sector. And with bidders already nervous about long bidding periods and costs, it is a big gamble to try to shift more risk their way. If the government really wants to leverage the private sector to its greater advantage, it would do better to make a concerted effort to reduce the burden of competitive dialogue on bidders – as the Scottish government announced it would do a fortnight ago. It’s a quick and easy way to attract more companies to pitch for contracts – keeping costs lower and silencing some, if not all, of those who still view PFI as an unpalatable example of taxpayers subsidising industry.