At their last meeting, the newly-named Arts and Antiques Professional Group Board unanimously decided to stand down pending a satisfactory response to a list of concerns submitted to the RICS last year.
Chris Ewbank, who chaired the group, expressed his sadness at the way things have turned out: "The RICS reorganised its Arts and Antiques Professional Group Board last year and I was elected its chairman in September. In early November, the new board submitted a very positive action plan to better represent fine art and antiques auctioneers and valuers.
"However, there was disparity. The professional group board felt that the institution had not properly addressed problems put to them five months earlier and surprisingly, a few days ago, I was advised that RICS had resolved to 'put a new board in place to lead the professional group'.
"This was a very unexpected turn of events. The board's only objective throughout has been to seek a meaningful solution to long-standing problems, to enable them to meet the needs of members of the auction profession within RICS. I hope the dialogue between the professional group and RICS will continue and I remain available for further discussion through my position as elected member of the institution's governing council.
"In the meantime, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the dedicated past and recent members of the board and previous boards over the last 20-30 years, who have served with me and others in often difficult circumstances."
Mark Dalrymple, who has sat on the board for the past ten years, said he thought it was outrageous that the RICS had reacted in this way. "They have elected to replace the board rather than address the issues which we raised and this is not in the best interests of the members. I am totally bewildered," he said.
When invited to put forward a spokesman, the RICS repeated the statement which had already been circulated to members:
"The RICS Knowledge Board have met to consider the matter of the resignation of the Arts & Antiques Professional Group Board. After debating a number of options, the board agreed and resolved that, in the wider interests of the RICS and its members, a new A&A Board should be duly constituted.
"RICS firmly believes there are potential opportunities for Arts & Antiques members and firms in the global markets, particularly China, North America & Europe.
"The new board will be tasked with reviewing global opportunities for the A&A profession in the broadest possible market context; reviewing routes to membership; promulgating professional standards and properly resourcing a forward-looking strategy via a clear and feasible business plan."
It is understood that members of the former board are free to apply to join the new board but it is unclear how many would wish to do so.
The paper submitted by the board addressed nine specific areas of concern. In summary, these are as follows:
• The complexity of the bureaucratic process within the RICS which stifles the execution of decisions made by the board.
• The failure to establish credible alternative routes of entry to RICS for "experienced professionals" already working as auctioneers or valuers.
• The excessive cost for members of Continuing Professional Development events organised by the centralised RICS department.
• The lack of experience and specialist knowledge of RICS staff sent to carry out regulatory inspections of members' accounts.
• The potential cost of an Accredited Valuers Scheme if introduced.
• The difficulties of publicising and promoting the activities of the Arts & Antiques Professionals Group in print and on the internet.
• The complexity of the hierarchy within RICS.
• The lack of specialist representation on the higher boards within that hierarchy.
• The high cost of becoming qualified.
By Mark Bridge