Monday, May 10, 2021

May 2021 update from IRRV President Andrew Hetherton


Since I last wrote to update you as Institute President, I am pleased to say meetings and involvement on key issues affecting the profession and the Institute seems to be increasing – not that it had been a quiet start to the year with all the goings on with business rate appeals, the issue of how to best support businesses with restart grants and business rates relief, the work being undertaken by IRRV Council, Staff and practitioners on Breathing Space and the statutory debt repayment plan.

As you may be aware the IRRV was concerned with HMT and DWP’s interpretation of the legislation and guidance concerning attachments and deductions as well as the role of DWP as an ‘agent’. It is pleasing to note the seminars and updates provided by IRRV have been so well received.

As the dust settles from the announcement to remove the ability to make new material change in circumstance proposals for the impact of covid, the focus of attention is now on how to made the business rates system work for all key stakeholders. It might seem obvious to some that checks and challenges already made can just be withdrawn or ignored, but sadly that is not the case. A great deal of work will be required to ensure that these are cleared once the relevant, retrospective legislation is introduced and passed. For agents and ratepayers that means having to continue to submit challenges and possibly even appeals. The questions of course being, how long will this take to be introduced ?

The publication of the latest Valuation Office Agency statistics just highlights the extent of the problem with some 400,000 plus checks being registered in since the list came into effect and more than half of those since April 2020.  The other issues is the speed at which cases that reach the challenge stage are being cleared with nearly 100,000 Challenges to the list to date and over 66,000 currently outstanding, four years into the list. Of the nearly 25,000 or so that have been resolved only around half have been “agreed”. I always recall the position put concerning the old appeal system that some 70% of 2010 cases being cleared with no list alteration, but the new approach has not taken us much further forward and it seems more are seeing a reduction in assessment.

The work of the Institute continues on seeking to identify solutions to the issues with business rates system. The Fundamental Review of Business Rates has focused the attention of both the Valuation and Local Taxation Faculty Boards. More work is needed to take this matter forward and find workable solutions.

At the end of April the IRRV Council met and we continue to focus on ensuring the Institute continues to offer, to its members, the advice and support that they need. We are also mindful of the support needed and the impact on all of our students and members undertaking training, apprenticeships and examinations. The Governance Board for Apprenticeships’ and Council were pleased with the initial outcomes of a recent inspection by Ofsted which noted ‘reasonable progress’ on our Apprenticeship programme.

IRRV Council is also keen to ensure that we provide the opportunities and events that are at the heart of the IRRV. They not only help support and share best practice but also give an opportunity for our members to meet and socialise with fellow professionals. A considerable amount of work is done by IRRV staff in arranging and supporting speakers for these events, but we also need your support – so please do look out for these events and where possible book a place and importantly attend. Undoubtably as we all get back to a more a ‘new norm’ there may be a number of meetings or events that interest you. Its worth remembering that income from such events is essential to support the work of the Institute.

I was extremely pleased to be able to attend two IRRV Association AGMs virtually at the end of April and congratulations go to both the Lancashire & Cheshire and East Midland Associations for putting on these meetings. It was pleasing to note that both meetings were well attended. These meetings are of course an ideal opportunity to thank those who have supported the running of Associations but also to provide updates on professional matters and the running of the Institute.

May will hopefully see further Association events and perhaps the opportunity soon to meet in person. There are also other meetings and events taking place including the Professional Bodies Liaison Group meeting which I will update on next month.

Wishing you all the best

Andrew

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

April 2021 update from the President!

As I am writing this update we are encountering some unseasonal weather with a mini heat wave at Easter! The green shoots, the lighter evenings and the easing of the “lockdown” provide us all with hope that we can look forward to the return of normality or something that is closer to what we remember of just over 12 months ago.

I am hoping that you have taken the opportunity to take some much-needed relaxation and rest over the extended Bank Holiday weekend because undoubtably there are going to be some challenges ahead.

A significant challenge for Ratepayers and their Agents was expected to be the processing of 110s of 1,000s of Challenges seeking to reduce their Rateable Value and thus liability for Business Rates all that had has gone up in a “puff of smoke” as a result of the announcement that the Government laid regulations, immediately removing the ability to submit challenges stating “that market-wide economic changes to property values, such as from Covid-19, can only be properly considered at general rates revaluations” going on to say that retrospective legislation was also to be brought forward wiping the slate clean for all those submitted. From just before Christmas the headlines suggesting significant reductions in assessments as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic had been subject to much discussion across our profession. 

On the one hand ratepayers and their agents were legitimately using the law to manage and reduce their risk, protect their business and the livelihoods of their employees. The announcement in the Budget for further Retail, Hospitality and Leisure relief and restart grants provided much needed help to many. At the same time as withdrawing grounds for MCC appeals a further £1.5 billion discounts were announced. Not every was to benefit however and the flip side to the support is the cost not only to the Exchequer but also how it is to be implemented in practice. 

The work of administering reliefs and grants for business rates has fallen upon Local Authorities when they too were experiencing the unprecedented effects of lockdown, having to grapple with staff working from home, an inability to meet up with friends, family or work colleagues and a totally different way of life. For some there has been grief for the loss of family or friends taken too soon, for others its dealing with their own physical and mental health. The work of the Institute however will focus on practical ways in which we can support all our members and those in the profession to implement the changes.

The good news is that as President a number of events are starting to be pencilled in the diary perhaps providing some respite from Teams, Zoom or GotoMeeting.

March saw numerous meetings and discussion on the Budget and its implications, the impact of regulatory changes already mentioned. I attended the first formal meeting of the Upper Tribunal Lands Chamber Users Group. It was announced that Mr Andrew Trott FRICS, a Valuer Member of the Tribunal and all those present wished him well for his retirement. It was interesting to hear how his time at the Tribunal was “bookended” but cases relating to airports and I am sure, if allowed, that he would have a few stories to tell of all cases in between.

I also attended the Business Rates Advisory Forum (BRAF) which took place on “Tax Day” which was lauded as signalling long-term government policy and the publication by HM Treasury of a number of consultations relating to tax, its administration and policy development. For Business Rates, this was focused on the responses to the Fundamental Review of Business Rates and not much more than that. Personally, I found the responses fairly predictable but was more disappointing was the lack of attendance at BRAF from key government departments and agencies. It should not be a tick-box exercise and remembered that those attending do so in order to not only listen but engage and question. Such engagement cannot be allowed to be a one-way street.

The work of the IRRV continues and the Council meeting taking place in late April will focus on the preparations for the Spring Series. The staff and management have also been focused on a recent inspection of our Apprenticeship Course, but despite that work has continued on providing members with regular updates, newsletters and technical support. 

The Performance Awards Panel also meet to look at arrangements for the submission of entries for 2021. Having to postpone these last year the approach this year is based on the same nine categories covering three ‘team’ and six ‘excellence’ categories with submissions being delivered online. The process will provide us all to celebrate excellence together and showcase the outstanding work of our members and the profession. 

As I close the weather has turned and we are now encountering a cold snap, snow and frost in April?   Its all change  in the meantime keep safe and enjoy the start of a journey to near normal reality. 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Latest update from the President!

Since my last letter to you we have seen the start of the roll out of a vaccine across the Country. As a write we have reached over 20 million vaccinations and I have my feet up having been directing visitors to a local vaccination centre. The NHS team delivering this exercise have tried and tested procedures in place. Local Government is no different although this year there has been a slight delay to the annual billing progress with the recommendation from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman to delay annual billing until after the Budget Statement on March 3rd. Some took the advice to delay annual billing – others sadly seem to believe they know best and have issued demands prior to the Budget Statement. 

The details of the Budget Statement have now been confirmed the additional details of how the relief and grants are to operate. Eligible businesses and ratepayers across England will benefit from further support. The billing process we are advised government should be relatively simple to deal with provided the guidance is followed and appropriate schemes put in place. Time will tell but of course many in local government and of course those professional in private practice advising clients will be supporting ratepayers in navigating the rules. For those who practice in other devolved nations they will be grappling with the differing approaches in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is clear to many that whilst easy to collect business rates as a tax is complicated and for some difficult to comprehend. 

The IRRV National Council has been working hard with HQ staff in preparation for our departure from Northumberland House and arrangements are in hand for a serviced office facility in Central London. The decision will be reviewed, in due course, once we have a better understanding of the impact of the pandemic and our requirements to support our members and student’s professional development and training needs.

A deal of time has been spent in February planning for our virtual Spring event to be held in May. Whilst we all want to get back to what we have been used to, the decision to go virtual in May proved to be the right decision in light of the road map set out by the Prime Minister. 

A sub group of IRRV Council has also been working with the IRRV Senior Management team on our apprenticeship programme. Having completed a Certificate in Education a number of years ago and having been a School Governor previously I have been pleased to contribute and support all those involved with the running of our apprenticeship programme. That said we continue to offer a range of other courses leading to professional qualifications at various levels. You may have seen recognition of the hard work and dedication that our students and members have been putting in, over and above their normal day to day work on social media.

Undoubtably March will present a number of challenges with the announcements in the Budget to be implemented including an extension to business rates relief, continued use of furlough and grants to support high street shops, pubs restaurants and the personal services sector. Through the auspices of IRRV representatives we continue to highlight the importance of ensuring Local Authorities and indeed the Valuation Office Agency are appropriately resourced to ensure all aspects of the process can be delivered. I was pleased to attend recently a meeting of the Valuation Tribunal Users Group. The VTS has embraced the approach to virtual hearings and in the main the approach has been well received by all those using the service.

Sadly, still no opportunity as National President to visit Associations or indeed to host our kindred organisations or Past Presidents and Honorary Members but I have in my diary planned meetings on behalf of the Institute including a meeting of the Upper Tribunal Lands Chamber Users Group.  I also have a key event for the end of the month – “Tax Day” – 23rd March, three weeks after the Budget and is being trailed by the Treasury as the start of consultations on long-term changes in government tax policy. Aside from capital gains and environmental levies it will provide detail of the responses to the Fundamental Review of Business Rates. The extra three-week window may allow the government to gauge reaction to the Budget announcements but I suspect many businesses and local authorities alike will want to know what others have said about the Fundamental Review of Business Rates. It seems inevitable that reforms are going to be made to business rates system and indeed how the avalanche of Covid related Material Change in Circumstance Appeals to be cleared. Clearly all the announcements will have implications on the government’s finances but it will impact local services too. I remain of the view that reform of the Council Tax system should not be ruled out given that it was first introduced some 28 years ago and has not been revalued or revised in England in the intervening period.

So having rested my feet from my volunteering this morning my attention now turns to the garden and it’s a bright, beautiful day – make the most of the delightful Spring weather and trusting you have a Happy Easter break.  

Keep safe and well

Andrew Hetherton

Monday, January 4, 2021

President's New Year update!


The last six weeks of 2020 have been surprisingly busy with a range of virtual events and meetings attended, sadly non involved a collective gathering over a meal to wish friends and colleagues seasons greetings and best wishes for the start of a new year.

Looking back on 2020 … the COVID-19 pandemic heightened the debate about the future of local government finance and the challenges of providing local services as well as the approach to of non-domestic rating including the tried and tested approach to rating valuations on a statutory framework based on annual rental value. We will miss a number of colleagues and friends who passed on during the course of the year and the Jan/Feb edition rightly reflects on the memory of Roger Messenger, fellow IRRV Council member and friend to the whole of the profession, who sadly passed away in November. He will be very much missed, yet fondly remembered for his contribution over many, many years.

Attending the ACES (Association of Chief Estates Surveyors) provided a welcome respite from the usual monotony of online meetings and particularly enjoyable having just received a delightful hamper from Jarrold celebrating the produce of Norwich and Norfolk, a gift from newly inaugurated President Simon Hughes and Immediate Past President Peter Gregory.

The IRRV Scottish Association Conference was extremely well received despite a slight hick-up, finally being broadcast in the last week of November and provided the as ever topical and thought-provoking presentations and discussion. The early part of December saw meetings of the Valuation Tribunal Users group and the final session of the virtual RICS Rating Diploma Holders Conference covering the legal and valuations issues which will come to the for as we move into 2021.

I was also pleased to attend a discussion on the formation of an Upper Tribunal User Group on behalf of the IRRV, to consider some of the practicalities of such a group and current issues affecting the Upper Tribunal. It was interesting to note that Rating cases make around 25% of the work of the Tribunal but like so many others, the likely progression of cases both for COVID Material Change in Circumstance Appeals and the likelihood of an influx of 2017 cases is being watched carefully.

I also attended, virtually, with the Chief Executive, David Magor and Head of Law & Research,  Moira Hepworth a conference organised by the Wales Government covering the future of local taxes and the wider local government finance framework for Wales. Sessions covered how to deliver many of these national priorities at a local level and consider ways for authorities to have freedom to set local priorities about the services they believe will benefit communities. This included a presentation on the approach to fair, progressive and better targeted local taxes as well as exploring the options for fundamental changes to local taxes including Council Tax banding, land value taxes and income taxes.

Last year I attended the IRRV Staff Christmas Lunch which sadly could not take place this year, so it was a great pleasure to be able to send out a bit of festive cheer and pass on my best wishes to all of the IRRV staff with the gift of some Christmas cake made by my wife, Helen. We also, albeit at quite short notice, sought to make contact with the representatives of IRRV Associations around the country to bring a bit of Christmas cheer and a raffle took place, the prizes included a Christmas cake and something to celebrate Christmas Day with.

As we move towards 2021 the impact of the pandemic has had a significant impact on our approach to Christmas and New Year celebrations. We must remain focused on the challenges ahead and I know the IRRV and all Council will continue to help you where we can as well as working on ways in which we can support each other to deal with these unprecedented times. The challenge, it seems clear now, will be around how to balance the finances for local government, work along side other professional bodies and key stakeholders administering the Check Challenge Appeal system and the challenges around not only processing and hopefully concluding  proposals seeking reductions in the 2017 Rating List but also the particularly difficult challenges that will face the Valuation Office Agency in undertaking initial preparations for a proposed revaluation in 2023 with a Antecedent Valuation Date of 1st April 2021. It remains to be seen whether there will be much of a market to provide the much-needed evidence to support the approach to such a valuation.

The IRRV Council will be working especially hard in the coming months with IRRV staff to ensure that the Institute continues to provide the support, training and informed updates to support us all. Our plans will no doubt needed to adapt and change but the prospect of a vaccine to help us overcome the virus will hopefully enable us all to start rebuilding and supporting our profession. The challenge will be to know what will and won’t be possible but I know that we all hope to be in a position to run in person conferences and professional develop meetings and training along with the ability to network and socialise. 

The start of the New Year will also see meetings of the Professional Bodies Liaison Group where an update on the progress of COVID MCC’s is likely to be an important point of discussion and update not only affecting ratepayers but also presenting significant challenges in preparing NDR1 returns, budgets and planning for the provision of much needed local services. IRRV Council will be meeting towards the end of January to make key decisions on how we plan to operate in 2021 supporting our members, students and apprentices.

Best wishes

Andrew

Andrew Hetherton MRICI IRRV (Hons) is President of the Institute

Monday, November 2, 2020

President's update for November 2020


As I was preparing to write this latest update to you it has been confirmed that we are to enter a second national “lockdown”. We will all perhaps have slightly different views on the announcement and will also have concerns about what is to come.  Across the country our members have been experiencing a range of different regional controls and restrictions and the latest announcement will undoubtably have a massive impact on not only our social and mental health but also on the economy. However, I want to take a moment to think and be grateful for all those in community leadership roles, local government officials, civil servants, national health service and support workers, officers and employees along with all who are volunteering who are working so hard to look after use when it is most needed. Their support and dedication is so much appreciated by all.

The coming weeks will be challenging but I know that together we will work in the best interests of our communities and be both understanding and compassionate whilst perhaps being nervous, frustrated or scared. But together, by looking out for each other and working collaboratively we will be able to work through the challenge to come, look out for one another and be grateful for what we do have.

October saw a considerable amount of work being undertaken by the Institute. Of course we started October with the virtual Conference & Exhibition which proved extremely successful and well attended. Again it is right to thank all the staff at IRRV HQ who worked tirelessly to facilitate this event which was fully managed and run in-house. If you have not already had the opportunity to review the sessions you missed you can do so until the end of the calendar year.

Once Conference was over I was pleased to participate in a series of online discussions and meetings with other professional and trade organisations on the Fundamental Review of Business Rates. The discussions formed a significant part of the Professional Bodies Liaison Group and Business Rates Advisory Forum meetings. There was the opportunity to hear from a wider range of representatives and the discussion was particularly insightful. It seemed there was a consensus on the approach to more frequent revaluations, a firm belief that the level of the multiplier was too high and that there were a number of ways to improve the current business rates system including reforms to Check, Challenge & Appeal but also importantly a desire for greater transparency on the disclosure of evidence and a simplification of reliefs and the billing process. The challenge now for Government will be decide on a course of action but particular care and consideration also has to be given to ensuring an appropriate and adequate funding settlement for Local Authorities.

I was extremely pleased to be able to meet up virtually with representatives from across many of the IRRV Associations around the country at the IRRV Association Representatives meeting, hearing of their efforts to support members locally whilst actively working to support their local councils or businesses. I know many are missing comradery and social interaction and hopefully as Christmas approaches, we can all find a way to meet up virtually again for a bit Christmas cheer.

 I took the opportunity to attend a number of virtual hearings of the Valuation Tribunal for England as an observer. The hearings covered both Council Tax and Non-Domestic appeals. I know the Valuation Tribunal Service has worked extremely hard to put in place the arrangements and to facilitate the access to justice for the aggrieved parties and their efforts are to be commended. At the other end of the scale I watched and listened with interest to the latest hearing before the UK Supreme Court in the matter of the appeal Hurstwood Properties (A) Ltd and others (Respondents) v Rosendale Borough Council and another (Appellants) UKSC 2019/0071. I look forward to reading the judgement in due course.

During my career I have worked with Mark Higgin FRICS FIRRV, a Partner at Montagu Evans. I have very much valued his support both personally but also for the Institute, the Rating Surveyors’ Association and RICS. We worked collaboratively together in many professional and social settings and I want to pay particular thanks to him as he now embarks on a new and well-deserved role as a Valuer member of the Upper Tribunal Lands Chamber. I am sure he will settle into this new role extremely well and wish him all the best.

I am also looking forward to the opportunity to attend in November the Annual meeting and professional talk of the Association of Chief Estates Surveyors and Property Managers in the Public Sector (ACES).  Whilst normally this would include lunch this year a virtual reception is being held and look forward to catching up and meeting the new President of ACES Simon Hughes.

November will also include our next meeting of Council with reports and updates from each of the portfolio holders for Commercial Services, Education & Membership and Law & Research along with meetings of the other standing committees of Council. There will also be meetings of the various faculty boards in the coming weeks which will update on matters affecting us all as members. So it will be another busy month and I will update date you all in due course.

In closing I know that the next few weeks will be challenging but Christmas will be just around the corner and we will hopefully have been able to over come the current challenges and look forward to catching up with family and friends during the festive season.

Best wishes to you all and have Merry Christmas

Andrew

Friday, September 25, 2020

Letter from the President - October 2020

In my last letter to you all I outlined a number of events that were to take place in September and I wanted to take the opportunity to update you all on events that I attended and have been involved with since.

I along with IRRV CEO David Magor was due to attend the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) Conference 2020 in Denver, Colorado USA but like so many events now, we were not able to attend in person. I plan to set out more fully in the next edition of Valuer Magazine a more detailed overview of what happened. Suffice to say of course that it was a wholly different experience, partly on the basis due to the time different that I found myself participating in the Conference welcome event online at 2am BST networking with other attendees ! 

Entertainment was provided by a Country and an ‘80s band along with several caricature artists. A series of educational sessions followed over the next two days /nights. There were networking opportunities and a virtual exhibition which included a wide range of exhibitors including a significant number of providers specialising in the use of digital mapping, those providing specialist advice on finding value both missing or undervalued and of course providers who can support you to best use technology to improve the service you provide or the work that you undertake. David presented a paper on Exemptions and Reliefs – A legitimate way of reducing the property tax burden ? 

I was particularly interested in the sessions which identified ways of improving property taxation by using Automated Valuation Models, Improving Work Flow Efficiency & Productivity in your Office and the perennial problem of dealing with ways to show compliance surrounding service of notices “I never got my Notice” True or False ? – How to prove it !

I also alluded to the efforts of the IRRV in preparing for our own virtual Conference and Exhibition taking place 6th to 8th October and I hope that all our members take the time to register and attend the various conference sessions that have been scheduled. It would have been great to see you all in Telford but as we all know circumstances won't allow this to happen.

If you have not done so already, you can register online using the link: IRRV Virtual Conference & Exhibition and of course it is free for members. We are indebted to our sponsors and exhibitors for their support and the event will provide an great opportunity work with our members across all fields of the industries and professional expertise in the Institute.

We also have the Annual General Meeting of the Institute taking place at 5.30pm on Tuesday 6th October which will be held on line. Please also register for this meeting which can be done by emailing Gary Watson to confirm your attendance. 

Other key aspects of our work continue however with the response to the call for evidence issued by HM Treasury covering a “Fundamental Review of Business Rates”. The first part of the Institutes response has been submitted and covers the issues of the level of the multiplier for 2021/22 and the approach to reliefs and exemptions.  I was also pleased to be able to participate in a discussion with HMT and the VOA on the progress of the review to date. The second stage of the review which is due for submission at the end of October will form a key topic of discussion in the coming weeks at the Faculty Boards, representing the various sector and interest groups of the Institute, but there will also be the opportunity to hear, discuss and share thoughts in the panel sessions of conference.

Of course there have been further announcements concerning the now cancelled Autumn Budget 2020 statement and the Winter Economic Plan that was announced by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to deal with “a fundamentally different position than we were in March”.

As we all adapt and change to this different world the IRRV Council and the Policy & Resources Committee also held additional meetings over and above those that would normally take place to consider a number of issues affecting the running of the Institute and the preparations being put in place for the virtual Conference & Exhibition. 

It is important to note that changes are taking place in different areas and I was pleased to be able to attend as an observer two recent cases determined by the Valuation Tribunal for England under the new Remote Hearing Protocol. I am sure at the best of times the appearance by an unrepresented party is daunting at the best of times, but to do so by way of a virtual hearing can be a challenge. But having said that it was indeed challenging for all parties, the panel and indeed the Clerk to the Tribunal. All having to get to grips with unfamiliar technology and the inevitable IT problems. There are perhaps a couple points I have learnt from this. As ever it is essential to prepare and that means ensuring compliance with the directions issued. Additionally, if you have not used the IT / Technology before a test run to ensure it works would be sensible and that means checking also that the systems work outside your own company or department. I was impressed with the way that the hearings were supported by the Valuation Tribunal Service. We should be under no illusion however that such hearings can be very intense and for that reason regular breaks need to be planned into the process.

So in signing off – do please register for our 1st virtual Annual Conference & Exhibition, take the opportunity to visit the virtual stands, the online social events and indeed remember that you have no excuse not to visit them all this calendar year as access to the conference portal will be open even when the conference formally concludes.

Best wishes to you all for an enjoyable and engaging conference

Andrew

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

President's update for September!

Andrew Hetherton
August for many would often have been an opportunity to take a break and enjoy the summer sun but this year its different. Many have had the opportunity to “eat out to help out” but may have had to take a chance on finding a table available Monday to Wednesday or risk sitting out side with some unusually inclement weather coupled with the travails of trying to book ahead to ensure a table is secured. 

From the President’s perspective a quiet month might normally be expected but this year is so different. Over the last few weeks, I have been able to participate in a range of discussions and meetings around the wide ranging review of the “Fundamental Review of Business Rates”. I participated in discussions with other organisations including the Rating Surveyors’ Association which through the leadership of both Thomas Stratton (President) and Josh Myerson (President Elect) which was engaging and thought provoking. Josh prepared a extremely useful summary of the questions and topics for review, enabling commentary to be provided. The RSA Committee discussion was divided between teams to consider each aspect of the review. 

The IRRV effort has been facilitated by Officers and I have been able to participate in a wide-ranging discussion of the review with the Law & Research Portfolio Holder (Alistair Townsend) meeting with Council members initially and then with Faculty Boards meeting to focus the detail from the perspective of the members of the Board.

We should all recognise the importance of the review and as a consequence have ask all members to provide their thoughts. Having said that however we have had many reviews or consultations in recent years, some going over the same ground and indeed I hear and read a great deal of views and opinions being offered by many; from ratepayers, to industry representative bodies, those who are instructed on behalf of their clients and of course Local Authorities who play a key role in collection of both Council Tax and Non Domestic Rates. But this time it seems, to me, to be especially important to ensure that we all contribute and I know the IRRV will be at the fore in providing its input.

We are at a cross roads and it is essential to avoid the pitfalls, mistakes and impromptu decisions that can often be presented to Ministers for a decision because experience tells us that these can lead to unexpected outcomes that are not helpful, impractical or worse still acted on without a full understanding. 

Thankfully I’ve not come across motorway cross roads but it seems for some in Scotland the consultation on Draft Regulations on civil penalties for failure to provide information to Assessors (and Councils) under the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Act 2020 is just that, a crossroads. It is certainly causing a great deal of concern. The proposals of course stem from the detailed work of the Barclay Review which the IRRV has been fully engaged, yet moving from a system that was totally ineffective and not enforced, to what now appears to some to be extremely draconian, disproportionate and harsh, is perhaps a wake up call that should be taken seriously. 

Elements of the new legislation place a requirement on those that might have the information to provide it and its one thing to require provision of information from the occupier or landlord but its quite something else to cast the net so wide as to require someone else “believed” to be in possession of the information coupled with extremely punitive penalties if not actioned. What’s actually needed is a system that’s practicable, capable of being broadly understood, accepted and realistic. 

In concluding I’m presently at home preparing to log on to the IAAO Virtual Conference 2020, it was originally intended to be taking place in Denver, Colorado and the conference programme looks great, a variety of speakers and a range of topics of interest. It was the intention of course to be in Denver in person, my wife and family were then due to hotfoot it back to the UK to one of my favourite events of recent years, the IRRV Scotland Conference at Crieff Hydro. We have thoroughly enjoyed attending previous conferences at Crieff and indeed the various social events taking place including the Gala Dinner. I’m going to have to pop out to locate some tablet and haggis mind to assuage my cravings for a taste of Scotland which might be a bit of a challenge but before you ask though the Scotch Whiskey is all ready lined up to sample. I will update you on how it went in my next letter. But between now and then my focus will be in supporting the IRRV Conference team in drawing together the plans for our own virtual conference which by all accounts will be a fantastic event. It is of course offered free to members and will provide some great headline speakers, thought provoking debate, discussion and the opportunity to hear from leading experts.

Cheers for now at least, keep safe and well

Andrew