Arb defends dramatic increase in legal fees
Accounts show regulator spent 32% more on enforcement actions last year compared to 2011
The Arb has defended a dramatic increase in the amount it spends on legal fees.
Annual accounts filed by the regulator reveal that the amount spent on enforcement actions last year rose by more than 32% from £456,661 to £604,878, while total legal fees rose by more than 24% from £688,040 to £853,648.
The figures have emerged less than a year after the organisation came under fire for hiking retention fees by 23%.
While the Arb made savings in areas such as printing, IT and board allowances and expenses, increases in legal fees meant its overall costs rose year on year.
Deputy registrar Karen Holmes said: “As a regulator we’ve had a number of additional burdens with regards the number of enquiries and challenges in relation to complaints.
“The figures include title regulations and they also include complaints. We’ve seen a rise in both areas. It’s not unique to the Arb; other authorities are also under the cosh.
“We’ve got a statutory duty to investigate complaints if they come to us. We can’t say: ‘We’ve spent £400,000, we can’t spend any more’.”
Details of the amount spent by the Arb on enforcement come at a time when the body is facing increased scrutiny over the cases it chooses to pursue.
A high-profile disciplinary action against former Arb board member George Oldham over an email gaffe in which he referred to Arb election candidates as “the ethnics” prompted the architect to allege that the Arb is “cavalier” in its prosecutions.
Oldham was found guilty of professional misconduct and issued with a reprimand. He dropped an earlier pledge to seek a judicial review of the decision citing the likely cost of such an action.
The Arb’s accounts noted that legal challenges to its enforcement decisions remain the “key risk” to the organisation’s future.