New Levelling Up Bill will allow ministers to appoint independent person to report on institution

The government will give itself the power to carry out independent reviews of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a clause in the new Levelling Up Bill has revealed.

The secretary of state of the Department for Levelling Up, Communities and Local Government, a post currently held by Michael Gove, will be able to appoint an “independent person” to investigate the RICS “from time to time”.

The Bill, which is currently at second reading in the House of Commons, says the government-commissioned reviews will look into the governance of the RICS and the “effectiveness of the institution in meeting its objectives”.

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The government will have the power under the new Levelling Up Bill to appoint an independent investigator to carry out a review of the RICS

The appointed reviewer will then be required to make recommendations in a written report, which the secretary of state can publish.

A RICS spokesperson said: “The UK Government had signalled its desire for a statutory provision regarding review of RICS, prior to the publication of the Bill.

“We have been working constructively with the secretary of state and the department on this point, as well as on other critical public interest matters in the built environment, including expanding building safety skills capacity, which is vital to public safety.

The announcement of the new power comes a month before the conclusion of an independent review of the RICS’ governance and future purpose.

Former senior civil servant Michael Bichard was appointed to lead the six-month review last December following a governance scandal at the institution that led to the resignations of four senior staff including chief executive Sean Tompkins and president Kathleen Fontana.

> Also read: ‘Members not staff’ should take the big decisions at the RICS, review chair says

It followed an investigation by Alison Levitt QC into the dismissal of four non-executive directors in 2018 after they raised concerns about the suppression of a damning financial report into the RICS’ treasury management.

The report found that the four non-execs had been unfairly dismissed amid a “power struggle” in the top echelons of the institution.

Former president and governing council chair Chris Brookes and management board chair Paul Marcuse also resigned following the publication of Levitt’s review in September.

The RICS spokesperson said the body is “proactively seeking views” from the government and other stakeholders while the review is being carried out and will continue to work with ministers in light of Bichard’s recommendations.