It’s the explosive interview everyone has been waiting for. No, not THAT one (all I’ll say about the Harry and Meghan interview is that as a mixed-race woman, I think it’s critically important to address race and mental health issues). I’m talking about the long-awaited interview with someone at the top of another royal institution, embattled RICS chief executive Sean Tompkins.
Since the story of the RICS corporate governance scandal broke, there has been virtual radio silence from Tompkins. Aside from the odd Twitter comment and carefully curated PR statement, there has been nothing – until now.
Speaking a week after RICS unveiled its eight-point plan for the review of the organisation’s “purpose and relevance” that he and RICS president Kathleen Fontana are overseeing, Tompkins broke his silence to talk exclusively to Property Week in his first interview with the press since the crisis began.
Despite pledging to hear all voices in the broad review, he shows no sign of backing down on his overseas ambitions or relenting to demands for a review of fee levels. Critics have questioned how independent a review conducted by a CEO and president can be, but neither does he see any need for an independent third party to be brought in. Indeed, he seems to take the view: ‘Who better to oversee it than the people who run the organisation?’ It begs the question: what is the point of having a review?
Defending his stance, Tompkins says RICS is reaching out to 134,000 people in 100 countries with 100 specialisms and that he wants “to hear from all of that voice”. The problem is it is not one loud, unified voice, it is thousands of loud, different voices, and after years of expansion, the rank-and-file UK RICS members – who still make up the vast majority – feel their voices have been drowned out. Worse, some feel they are not allowed to speak.
Several senior RICS members have told Property Week they fear being threatened with legal action if they say anything. That sounds close to being gagged – and is hardly in the spirit of wanting “to hear from all of that voice”.
What is sad is that this does not just threaten to tarnish RICS’ reputation, it also undermines the huge amount of good work the organisation has done, most recently on cladding, which it issued important guidance on this week.
Let’s hope Tompkins strikes a more conciliatory note in the consultation and is as receptive to input as he has pledged to be.
Council cash piles
It is not just RICS that has faced criticism for a lack of disclosure. As a Property Week investigation reveals, London local authorities are sitting on at least £1.29bn in unspent dosh received in infrastructure payments from developers, a lot of which they have failed to account for or allocate – and there could be more. Seven failed to publish their IFSs despite being required to do so by law by the end of last year.
We all know how much pressure councils are under, but they need to disclose what they have received and allocate it. What better way to drive recovery?