GDC consults on approach to fees

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After the GDC announced it would be launching a consultation on how it sets its ARF, Seb Evans spoke to Ian Brack about what this new consultation involves.

Seb Evans (SE): What is this new consultation you’ve launched and what do you hope to achieve with this?

Ian Brack (IB): The consultation is all about the way we calculate and set the ARF, not the actual number itself. We’re attempting to get a clear steer from stakeholders, registrants, even members of the public, on a set of principles and policies intended to implement those principles.

What we’re trying to get is a clearer understanding of what matters to people. Whether the approaches we’re taking to achieve our objectives are what everyone agrees with and whether they’re content with the things we’re doing.

In the proposals there are some points we make explaining why we’re not going to do something. One example of this is payment of the annual retention fee (ARF) by instalments. We’re not proposing to do that, here’s our rationale for that, what do you think about it?

The key thing is we’ve got three high level principles (boxed below).

They’re really important, and we’re asking views on that. It’s very significant because it takes forward how we’ll think about the whole business of establishing our costs, setting our strategic priorities and then ultimately what the ARF is for years to come.

SE: Previously the GDC has been guilty of not listening to the profession. There was even a judicial review when the GDC last increased its fees. How do you intend to demonstrate you are listening this time?

IB: Well, it’s a different type of consultation for a start. We’re going out with a list of ideas and asking what everybody else’s view is. If we don’t listen, it will have wasted a great deal of our own time.

We invested a considerable amount of time, staff resource and effort in really trying to think these things through. If we don’t pay attention to the feedback we get, the exercise would be an extraordinary wasteful one of time and resource.

Looking through the history of the organisation, I think the older ARF consultation policy was very much based on a strong desire to be transparent. One of the reasons it fell over was it set itself a task that was very hard to do. What we’re trying to do here is balance transparency, practicality and deliverability.

SE: The consultation mentions you’re only looking to consult on fees once every three years rather than annually. Is this a way of not consulting on price rises in the future?

IB: The world doesn’t work to a 12-month programme. For example, the average fitness to practise case life is 18 months, so you’ve got a problem there. Our projects don’t last 12 months, you can’t refurbish a building in 12 months, Shifting the Balance certainly won’t take 12 months to fulfil.

When we talk about shifting to a three-year horizon, it’s much more about the life of the strategy. We’re saying, here’s our priorities, do you agree with those? Here’s the high-level workload that is out there, do you think that’s right? Here’s what it costs, what do you think of that? It’s much more useful.

If we keep to an annual budget, what is the profession going to make of that? The answer is probably going to be: ‘It’s too much, what can we cut off it?’ This new way you start to get much more useful feedback. It’s making the plan strategically transparent. When you start thinking across three years, it starts helping people think about why costs might be falling where they’re falling.

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