Drama in Westminster is not confined to the politicians. In the corner of Parliament Square where the RICS resides, tension between the institution’s management and its QS members is at snapping point.
As we reveal on , the professional group of QSs is drafting a document that will put the profession’s growing list of grievances to the RICS’ governing council.
A draft of the statement, seen by Building, sets out fundamental concerns about the direction of the institution and the feeling among QSs that they are being sidelined. We have heard much of this before – readers with long memories will recall the revolt in 1999 over Agenda for Change – but never has it been so powerfully put and, crucially, the document raises the prospect of thousands of QSs quitting the institution altogether. Those who say it’s time to do that suggest the profession could be regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) instead. Another model would be to keep the RICS as the body to oversee professional qualifications and transfer to the FSA for financial regulation.
It’s not difficult to see why it has come to this. QSs hand over £400 each a year to belong to the RICS, so it must be galling for them when their leadership implements a series of policies that they’re opposed to. And, as Richard Steer points out on page 26, the fact that they’re helping to pay Sean Tompkins, the new chief executive, £30,000 a month to do it is particularly annoying. QSs have three main complaints: the first is the threat to leave the Construction Industry Council (this point has already been won, after a great deal of growling); second is a shake-up of the institution’s organisation that QSs fear will muffle their voices. But the initiative that has created the greatest opposition is the introduction of easier routes to chartered status: this strikes directly at the prestige of being an MRICS.
Despite the strength of the QSs’ revolt, it’s not clear that they would really leave the RICS. The construction industry is still in recession, and setting up a separate institution would be a massive undertaking. Fresh committees would need to be set up and arrangements drawn up with the FSA, including new fee structures, and many would be the regulatory hoops to jump through. The major practices would also need to be united and resolved to press ahead, which doesn’t seem to be the case right now: they have other priorities.
A more reasonable approach would be to lobby from within for reform. As Building has reported, Tompkins is planning to meet QSs to mend fences. To succeed, he will need to convince them that membership qualifications are not being dumbed down, that the RICS can expand globally and still judge all nationalities by the same standard, and that QSs’ voices will be heard within the RICS. And if he can persuade QSs that their fees are not consumed by an overpaid bureaucracy, that would be all to the good … QSs certainly ought to hear Tompkins out before doing anything rash.
Roxane McMeeken, assistant editor