2008 Yearbook

74 Y e a r b o o k 2 0 0 8 BUILDING · CONSERVATION INSTITUTE · OF · HISTORIC · LINKING UP: Professional Standards in Public and Private Practice Nathan Blanchard The different membership categories of the IHBC recognise the different needs of professionals and stakeholders in the private and public sectors. All Full Members are required to observe the IHBC’s standards and duties, regardless of their specialist interest or place of work, whether they are in the private or public sector. Equally, associate membership, the theme of the current Yearbook, can benefit from the huge range of less specialised interests in conservation. In the private sector in particular we see the breadth of interest, both good and bad, in our historic places, and IHBC membership is no less important in raising standards. After two years in the private sector, I still find surprising how many public sector colleagues ask me in hushed tones during a tea-break at a conference or IHBC meeting, “What is working in the private sector like?” As with all jobs, people face challenges and opportunities, and the thought that perhaps the grass is greener on the other side is often counterbalanced by the fear of the unknown. Furthermore, in this case the question is complicated by stereotypes: by convention the public sector is seen as slow, lumbering and difficult to change direction, while in contrast the private sector is considered to be swift, agile and quick to respond to changing circumstances. Fortunately, neither is true nor false, but these attitudes are embedded in our culture, as illustrated by the 1980s television programmes Y es Minister and Yes Prime Minister . These saw the public sector as the resistor of change and administrators not politicians knowing what’s best for the country. How times have changed – if, that is, this ‘reality’ ever existed. We must move beyond stereotypes to understand the issue, and a useful starting point is to look at what the sectors share. There is, for example, the desire to deliver a service and an increasing wish to excel in this delivery. There is also the belief that the historic environment and its protection for future generations should be at the centre of this, and that society as a whole benefits from this activity. Both sectors also have to cope with the pace of change in planning and historic building legislation and policy. Almost weekly the Government launches a consultation exercise, reports on an exercise, or issues new directions or policy. Whether this is on climate change, permitted development rights or a host of other related subjects, as professionals we have to keep abreast of them, make sense of them and inform our colleagues and other members of our organisation, our clients or the public. Perhaps a slight difference for professionals in the private sector is that we often have to keep abreast of up to four ‘governments’, given the devolution settlement and the gathering pace of individual approaches from the home nations to planning and the historic environment. Yes, there are other differences between the sectors, but these may well be differences of presentation rather than actuality. While those in the private sector talk of clients and serving their needs, those in the public sector have also adopted this terminology, despite the fact that the private sector can choose their clients while the public sector has to offer a conservation service to all those who wish to access it. However, the real difference between the sectors is not one of approach but of role within the sector. Increasingly over the past ten years the public sector has evolved to purchase private sector resources in order to deliver its services, often in recognition of the private sectors ability to bring greater resources to focus on a particular issue, greater expertise in a particular area or address short term Photo: Martin Clackson, ©iStockphoto.com