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