Cabe to become part of Design Council as quango closes following funding loss
The chief executive of Cabe is to step down as the design watchdog becomes part of a 50-strong Design Council led by that organisation’s current chief executive, David Kester, writes Joey Gardiner.
Just 20 Cabe employees will move to the Design Council, a fraction of the 125 employed by the architecture quango until last year, as Cabe itself is wound up. Chief executive Richard Simmons, who has led the body since the departure of Jon Rouse in 2004, has decided to step down for personal reasons.
Government funding for Cabe’s activities will fall from about £11m to around £3m a year until 2013, when it is likely to cease. Simmons’ departure follows that of communications and policy director Matt Bell and deputy chief executive Joanna Averley in recent weeks.
An official announcement has been delayed until approval is granted by the Cabinet Office for the dissolution of Cabe, but this is expected to be a formality.
Cabe was set up in 1999 to promote better standards of architecture across England, and flourished under New Labour after being recommended in the Urban Task Force report by Lord Richard Rogers.
It was thrown into crisis by the October spending review, when one of its two funding departments - the culture department - decided to stop its grant from April this year.
Cabe sources stressed its closure was necessary to achieve the merger with the Design Council because of complex government rules over quangos, and did not mean Cabe was effectively being taken over.
A leaked letter from culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, made it clear the Cabe part of the Design Council will be funded only to 2013, when it is expected to become “self-financing”.
This is in contrast to the rest of the Design Council, which the business department has pledged to continue to fund to the tune of £4m a year until the end of the spending review period.
The Design Council will be stripped of its quango status and lose 40% of its 55 staff, but will remain a charity supported by royal charter. The merged body is likely to consult in due course on how it will continue to provide its key services, such as Design Review, without public money.
Tony Pidgley, chairman of Berkeley Group, said: “Hopefully the Design Council will pick up where Cabe left off.”
Robin Nicholson, former Cabe commissioner and senior member, Edward Cullinan Architects.
The merger with the Design Council is a very good idea; it’s just a shame the government has been dragging its feet, with the decision sitting on ministers’ desks all this time. I just hope that, while design review is important, the merger recognises that all the rest of the work Cabe does is important, too. There has never been a greater need for Cabe’s enabling work [advising local authorities on major schemes] as councils are pressed and lose their skills as clients. The great myth of the coalition is that they can do the big society without money. Richard [Simmons] deserves eternal gratitude for the work he’s done.
Design review: Cabe panels have in recent years reviewed (from top) 20 Fenchurch Street (Rafael Viñoly), Tideway Wharf, (Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners), One Tower Bridge (Squire and Partners) and Vauxhall Sky Gardens (Carey Jones Architects)
18 February 2011
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