Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Letter from the President for February 2020

The festive season is behind us and attention is turning in many local authorities to the process of annual billing – I am reminded each time I speak to colleagues in the revenues teams around the country that this is a busy time of year not only with the exercise of preparing to issue business rate and council tax demands but also advising members on the likely budget discussion for the coming year. I recall this time of year from my private practice days as well though, as teams across the firms of rate payment advisors prepare for the deluge of paper demands being sent out. 

I initially thought what am I to write about, in January a quite month, the excess of Christmas has caught up with many and perhaps pay day seemed to be a long way off, but then I look back through my diary to see that actually I’ve had a number of events to attend and a growing number of commitments over the next couple of months. I just hope there wont be too many clashes with the start of the next flat season or indeed the finale of the jumps season!

I was extremely pleased to be able to attend CIOT President, Glyn Fullelove Luncheon, at the Great Hall Merchant Taylors Hall a packed room and a pre lunch drinks provided an opportunity to network with practitioners and representative from a number of organisations. During lunch I was pleased to be to meet two re-elected parliamentarians and a notable additional guest to the table was former Chancellor of the Exchequer the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke who provided me with some interesting insights on how he dealt with tax avoidance and evasion. I subsequently was pleased to hear the CIOT also raised £2,722 for its charitable causes.

The topic of avoidance and evasion remains central to the concerns of many members and will come to the fore in the lead up to the 2020 Budget on 11th March and no doubt a hot topic of discussion no doubt across many councils and indeed businesses. IRRV will be preparing a response in advance. We can expect elements to be trailed by interest and lobby groups in the press highlighting many important concerns in the weeks to come. 

The cycle of meetings also stepped up toward the end of the month with a meeting of Council which discussed a number of topics including; Breathing Space implementation and a consultation on revisions to the Practice Directions for the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber). Council also considered preparations for the Spring Conference and a series of professional seminars not to mention of course progress with plans for the IRRV Conference and Performance Awards later in the year.

Meetings with other professional organisations and government are key to drawing attention to the experience and work of our members and indeed seeking to highlight how improvements can be or by shining a light on particular areas of practice. I was conscious of the work of our representatives attending updates on the digitalisation of business rates and by the time you read my letter to you meetings of the Business Rates Advisory Forum and the Professional Bodies Liaison Group will have taken place. Such opportunities to meet with follow professionals and enable a wide range of views to be shared and together I’m sure opportunities to develop or address improvements can be made to working practice.

As I close I was pleased to be able wear the insignia of the Rating and Valuation Association (RVA) at a number of events including the meeting of Council. The IRRV Presidential Chain is in a clean and brush up.  RVA was incorporated in 1927 and remained in place until 1990 when we became know as the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation. I am sure some members will be able to tell me about other key milestones or indeed that I will be directed by some of our longer standing aficionados to raid the archives with the able assistance of Gary Watson and David Magor. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

A festive update from the President!

As I was contemplating my update the General Election was in full swing but by the time you read it the campaigning activities of the main parties will have ended, results announced and hopefully the focus of your attention for the last couple of weeks of 2019 will have been on the meeting with relatives, friends and enjoying the festive season. The outcome of the General Election is important for a number of reasons not only a significant majority for the Johnson Government but also for the number of pledges made, many of which will have a direct impact on your work and that of the Institute.

It has to be said therefore that the coming year will need to address a number of the key issues in our sector. The IRRV has with the support of its members, elected Council and staff been at the fore during the last year when it comes to supporting the work of local councils, highlighting the need to adequately resource those that work in the sector (including the VOA), addressing the concerns of those that pay Council Tax, Business Rates and of course calling out the apparent failings of the Check Challenge Appeal system and to suggest constructive changes for the benefit of all. 

The Queen's speech followed quickly on from the General Election result and for many the hope is an end to a politically and economically turbulent period and the focus of attention now turning to the government’s legislative programme. I hope you return from the festive break, refreshed and with renewed vigour to make a difference. There have already been some welcome indicators that Government is prepared to listen and engage. I was pleased to hear in some of the coverage in the press the importance of local knowledge to inform the decision making process, a transformative approach with a vision to make a difference. The key is to ensure radical changes are not made on whim. For real change to work what is needed, is to listen to what is being said, to have self-discipline, not self-indulgence, understand needs and develop a strategy based on our professional training and experience.. 

Business Rates was mentioned in the Queen’s speech with the new government seeking to make good on its manifesto pledges to provide even more support for small independent businesses and claims that reforms and reliefs will reduce the burden by more than £13bn over the next five years. We have already seen a switch from RPI to CPI indexation, increases in the threshold for the standard multiplier to £51,000 and doubling the threshold for small business rates relief, meaning over 675,000 of the smallest businesses benefiting from paying no rates at all. We will see the return of the governments planned Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) Bill 2017-19 recognising that rating revaluations must take place more frequently and plans for three yearly revaluations to take place from 2021. But I note the demise of some major names in the retail sector over the last decade Toys R Us, Borders, Tie Rack, Bhs, Staples, Blockbuster, Maplin, Barratts, Phone 4 U to name but a few and the latest figures suggest that during 2019 60 shops closed each day.  So more needs to be done and despite the calls from specific sectors, a more fundamental change is needed. To that end the IRRV will seek to be at the fore when it comes to providing advice and seeking to address the issues. It is essential to address the underlying issues facing the high street and town centres but what also needs to be recognised is that the issues are not confined to the small retailer but all businesses and indeed the resourcing of local government and the provision of local services key to making a difference for all our communities. 

The Institute has broad areas of practice, so aside from valuation and business rates, addressing the financing of Local Government and ensuring those most in need is key, the expertise of our members dealing with revenues, welfare and benefits will focus our minds in 2020. It is imperative therefore that parliamentarians work collaboratively and take advice from sector specialists/experts and those working in local authorities, to produce a set of clear and coherent policy objectives to deliver change. Such reforms will need to encompass the need for housing reform, the need for shaping a resilient and sustainable future, address climate change and address housing issues.

The end of November and early part of December has to my mind been particularly busy time I was particularly pleased to be able to meet two delegations to the UK looking at the financing of sub regional government and the support offered by the IRRV. The first a delegation from the peopled Republic of China looked at the financing of sub regional and central government and secondly representatives from the Korean Association of Property Appraisers who were looking at options for property taxation. I attended the Rating Diploma Holders Lunch and CPD event at the RAF Club at the end of November. The CPD event included an address by Ruud Kathmann of the Netherlands Council for Real Estate Assessment on the Dutch System of property tax and valuation. Lunch followed with an entertaining after dinner address by IRRV Honorary Member Patrick Bond.

Attending regional events and reaching out to our members, regional Associations and sponsors enabled me to visit the East Midlands Association Gala Dinner (they know how to party) as well as two visits to Scotland within a month. First for the Scottish Benefits and Welfare Conference in Grangemouth. The second to address the Benefits Forum Meeting held at Edinburgh City Council’s Offices  and to attend the Non Domestic Rates Practitioners’ Group hosted by Scottish Government. The added bonus was a very memorable Christmas Drinks reception hosted by the IRRV Scottish Association President Lesley Henderson and the Scottish Association Executive.

The highlight of the last week before Christmas was not the General Election results, nor attending the Racehorse Owners Association Awards ceremony but being able to attend the IRRV Staff Christmas Lunch which along with secret Santa gifts afforded me the opportunity to thank all our staff for their work and present a Christmas Cake made and decorated by my wife. 

All that remains is for me to do is to wish you all a very Happy and prosperous New Year.






Wednesday, December 4, 2019

December 2019 - Update from the President!

Hitting the ground running is vital at the start of a new Presidential term!

Dear readers,

It’s now just a month since I was appointed President of the Institute. The first 100 days are a critical time to make a positive impression and lay a meaningful foundation for the future - and even more so when it comes to a Presidential year - but I’m fortunate to have had the benefit of working with and the experience, purpose and direction of Immediate Past President, Louise Freeth. Coupled of course with the knowledge that both the new Senior Vice President – Alistair Townsend - and Junior Vice President – Carla-Maria Heath - are also passionate about the work of the IRRV and its members.

A key aspect is to listen and learn and the best way to do this is to create an environment that maximises it, including opportunities to meet, build rapport, and establish connections with members, employees, customers and other key stakeholders. And asking for views on what’s working and the importance of listening, which is often undervalued.

It’s also important to communicate, connect and establish trust and open the “virtual door”, so if you haven’t noticed already, you can find out about what I’m up to via Twitter @andrewhetherton my blog at https://irrvpresidenthetherton.blogspot.com/ and through Linked-In.  These channels are supported by the IRRV’s own feeds and Facebook channels. The IRRV uses a range of social media channels which will update you on the work of the Council and our staff.

As an organisation develops, it is also important to “slow down in order to speed up” and the first opportunity came with the IRRV Council meeting in early November, when Council members received reports from the “portfolio postholders” for the coming year.  Many reflected on the excellent Annual Conference and Exhibition in Telford and of course the Performance Awards, a great opportunity to celebrate the efforts of all our finalists and to congratulate all the winners.

We also need to address the value of our professional body, the benefit of working with other kindred organisation and supporting our members, students and stakeholders in ensuring the IRRV continues to be at the forefront of education, professional discipline and embracing change. The old adage of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is still relevant, but so too “results matter” and even more so when we need to address mission critical situations. The ones that come to mind include the issues surrounding Universal Credit, the Budget and the need to respond to consultations. We have as an Institute so much to offer and the strength comes from the passion and enthusiasm from our members, Associations and supporters to do the right thing. Internal and external issues will no doubt provide challenges but as an organisation we will be flexible and agile in embracing these issues.

I have attended a number of events, the first being the Association Representatives meeting on the final day of the Conference. I was accompanied by our CEO David Magor and we look forward to reading of the updates from that meeting as both David and I needed to leave for The European Group of Valuers’ Associations (TEGoVA) event in Sofia, Bulgaria. I was really pleased to be part of this event, meeting representatives from across Europe and indeed wider afield, including representatives from the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO). 

I was also able to attend the Chartered Institute of Tax (CIOT) Presidential Reception at the Kia Oval, to network with their members and hear of the work they have been doing. They provided details of their new rebranding and initiatives to support members, training and celebrating success across their organisation.

As I conclude my first update, I do so from Nassau, Bahamas, where I am attending the 8th Construction and Valuation Conference run by the International Property Tax Institute (IPTI) and RICS Americas. Keeping in touch with events at home, including Brexit and the decision to hold a General Election, provided an insight for me as to how the UK is perceived abroad. 

A key event, however, was the announcement of the review by the Treasury Select Committee. The IRRV provided a written response to the inquiry earlier in the year and I was pleased to see a significant number of the issues we raised being addressed by the Committee. Time will tell how these will be taken forward but the key issues in my mind include the need to model and work on further reforms of the business rates system and the need to ensure adequate funding of the VOA to ensure that it is able to undertake more frequent revaluations effectively. In addition, the report highlighted a number of other important considerations, specifically including: 

that changes to the system of business rates need to be fair to all ratepayers. It is essential for the system to be transparent 

the current system of Check Challenge and Appeal has presented a number of significant issues in terms of its implementation and this has undermined confidence in the process, which needs further review.

The IRRV stands ready to support a detailed review of the approach to online sales tax and other alternatives and the Committee in its final report recommends further modelling and investigation into these options.

******

As you read this, Christmas will be fast approaching, so I take this opportunity on behalf of Council and my family to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and prosperous New Year!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Andrew's November update - and some new photos!

Its now just a month since I was appointed President of the Institute. The first 100 days are a critical time to make a positive impression and lay a meaningful foundation for the future and even more so when it comes to a Presidential year but I’m fortunate to have had the benefit of working with and the experience, purpose and direction of the Immediate Past President Louise Freeth. Coupled of course with the knowledge that both the new Senior Vice President – Alistair Townsend and Junior Vice President – Carla-Maria Heath are also passionate about the work of the IRRV and its members.

A key aspect is to listen and learn and the best way to do this is to create an environment that maximises this. Including opportunities to meet, build rapport, and establish connections with members, employees, customers and other key stakeholders. Asking for views on what’s working and the importance of listening, which is often undervalued.

Its also important to communicate, connect and establish trust and open the “virtual door” so if you haven’t noticed already you can find out about what I’m up to via Twitter @andrewhetherton, my blog and through Linked-In and these channels are supported by the IRRV’s own feeds and Facebook channels. IRRV also uses a range of social media channels which will update you on the work of the Council and our staff.

As an organisation develops it is also important to “slow down in order to speed up” and the first opportunity will come with the next meeting of the IRRV on the 4th November when Council Members meet and will receive reports from the new “Portfolio Post Holders” for the coming year. I welcome the appointments of Alistair Townsend (Law & Research), Jim McCafferty (Education & Membership) and Nick Rowe (Commercial Services) along with the reappointment of Chair of Policy & Resources, Richard Harbord and Roger Messenger Chair of Professional Conduct Committees. Many will reflect on the excellent Conference and Exhibition in Telford and of course the Performance Wards, a great opportunity to celebrate the efforts of all our Finalists and to congratulate all the Winners.

We also need to address the value of our professional body, the benefit of working with other kindred organisation and supporting our members, students and stakeholders in ensuring the IRRV continues to be at the forefront of education, professional discipline and embracing change. The old adage of “if it aint broke don’t fix it” is still relevant but so too “results matter” and even more so when we need to address mission critical situations. The ones that come to mind include the issues surrounding Universal Credit, the Budget which at the time of first draft had been planned for the 6th November (but now abandoned) and the need to respond to consultations. We have, as an Institute so much to offer and the strength comes from the passion and enthusiasm from our members, Associations and supporters to do the right thing. Internal and external issues will no doubt provide challenges but as an organisation we will be flexible and agile in embracing these issues.

I have attended a number of events the first, being the Association Representatives meeting on the final day of the Conference. I was accompanied by our CEO David Magor and we look forward to reading of the updates from that meeting as both David and I needed to leave to head to the TEGoVA (The European Group of Valuer Associations) in Sofia, Bulgaria. I was really pleased to be part of this event meeting representatives from across Europe and indeed wider afield including representatives from the IAAO (International Association of Assessing Officers). I was also able to attend the  CIOT (Chartered Institute of Tax)  Presidential Reception at the Kia Oval to network with their members and hear of the work they have been doing. They provided details of their new rebranding and initiatives to support members, training and celebrating success across their organisation.

As I conclude my first update I do so from the Nassau, Bahamas where I am attending the 8th Construction and Valuation Conference run by IPTI (International Property Tax Institute) and RICS Americas. No one can have failed to heard of the devastating impact of Hurricane Dorian. Keeping in touch with events at home including BRExit and the decision to hold a General Election provided an insight for me as to how the UK is perceived abroad. A key event however was the announcement of the review by the Treasury Select Committee. The IRRV provided a written response to the inquiry earlier in the year and I was pleased to see a significant number of the issues we raised being addressed by the Committee. Time will tell how these will be taken forward but the key issues in my mind include the need to model and work on further reforms of the business rates system, the need to ensure adequate funding of the VOA to ensure that it is able to undertake more frequent revaluations effectively. In addition the report highlighted a number of other important considerations :

•        Changes to the system of business rates need to be fair to all ratepayers. It is essential for the system to be transparent and currently there is a significant level of distrust of the VOA’s approach to valuations and evidence needs to be provided more effectively to support the VOA’s proposed valuations.

•        The current system foe Check Challenge and Appeal has presented a number of significant issues in terms of its implementation and this has undermined confidence in the CCA process and we would encourage a further review of the systems and the approach to this new appeals process.

The IRRV stands ready to support a detailed review of the approach to online sales tax and other alternatives and the Committee in its final report recommends further modelling and investigation into these options.

As you read this Christmas will be fast approaching so I take this opportunity on half of Council and my family to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and prosperous New Year.









Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Welcome from Andrew!

Andrew is President of the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation 2019/20. 

He runs his own consultancy and is a Chartered Surveyor. 

He attended Bootham School, York prior to studying Land and Property Valuation at Southampton Institute (now Solent University) where he was also Student Union President for two years. 

Andrew joined the Valuation Office Agency before joining GL Hearn as a graduate in 1995 eventually working across the years to become Head of Business Rates 2012-2017. 

He is a Past President of the Rating Surveyors’ Association (2012/13) and remains a committee member of the RSA. 

Andrew has been actively involved with business rates valuation and rate payment throughout his career. 

Andrew joined IRRV Council in 2015, served as Chair of both Law & Research and the Valuation Faculty Board, as well as representing the IRRV on the VOA Professional Bodies Liaison Group, the Valuation Tribunal Users Group and is also a member of the RICS Local Taxation Policy Group. 

He has also served as Chairman of Accessible Retail Ltd a trade and representative body for property professionals in the out of town sector. 

He has been a regular public speaker and facilitator for the IRRV, RSA and the International Property Tax Institute across the UK and internationally. 

Married to Helen with two children Sophia and Joshua outside work Andrew has enjoyed scuba diving, sailing and following his string of aptly named racehorses. 

Some fun photos of Andrew - and the family!