Wait is over as government confirms Cabe’s work will move across

The government has confirmed that architecture quango Cabe is to merge with the Design Council, after weeks of delay.

Housing minister Grant shapps said he wanted to create a “one-stop shop, providing a service to industry, councils and local communities.”

The announcement was put back two weeks ago in order to secure the permission of deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, because the decision affects quangos working for three government departments.

Grant Shapps said he wanted the merger to allow local residents to have a much greater say over how their communities are designed. He said: “By merging these elements of the Design Council and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, we can continue to improve the local support that is available for people to do this, and build on the strong track record in offering mentoring, training and support.”

“This merger will not only mean the excellent work the Commission has already undertaken can continue, but will also ensure that every taxpayer’s pound spent on improving design is spent wisely and efficiently,” he added.

The combined organisation will focus on:

  • Design Review, which provides expert advice to councils, developers and communities through reviews of major proposed projects
  • Promoting the value of good building and spatial design to businesses and communities and, in particular, facilitating well-designed new homes and neighbourhoods
  • Mentoring and advice to businesses, public services and university technology offices on the use of design
  • High profile design challenges which bring together the best in design, manufacturing and services to develop and introduce innovative solutions to national issues in health, security and sustainability

However, it did not confirm that current Cabe chair Paul Finch will transfer across to the Design Council, as expected. Current Cabe chief executive Richard Simmons will step down for personal reasons.

The Design Council board will be expanded to include a number of current Cabe commissioners, although it is not thought that all will transfer, with the statement confirming that “a new governance structure for the Design Council will also be put in place to equip the new organisation to deliver its new broader remit.”

According to a leaked government documents last week, Cabe will officially be wound up under the merger, with only 20 of the 125 staff it had in 2010 transferring. The Design Council will also lose around 40% of its staff under the move.

Today’s statement said the Design Council will be consulting with CABE staff in the coming weeks to finalise the roles which will continue to deliver the Design Review services, as part of the new organisation. It said these will be confirmed, along with the new organisational structure for the Design Council when staff consultations in both organisations have been completed.

The merger will see the Design Council cease to be a Non Departmental Public Body but retain its charitable status and become an independent not-for profit organisation incorporated by Royal Charter. It will continue to act as advisor and intermediary delivering key services to government.  In addition to Cabe’s work, it will now focus on three areas: design demonstration, knowledge networks and design policy advice to government.  The target date for the transition is 1 April 2011, subject to agreement by the Privy Council and Charity Commission.

Paul Finch said the merger was a “very positive move” that will “place architecture at the heart of the economy as a driver for competitive businesses and places.” He added: “I am very much looking forward to the combined expertise of our two organisations to coming together to achieve that.”