Saturday, September 25, 2021

Latest update from the President

It is incredibly important to recognise contribution to a  professional organisation and on that note I was pleased today to host a meeting of Honorary Members and Past Presidents of the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation. 

I was joined by Senior Vice President Alistair Townsend and chairs of Faculty Boards Zoe Kent and Simon Green.

We discussed the challenges facing our profession but also looked forward to our Annual Conference - the #irrv Annual Conference, Exhibition amd Performance Awards #togetherintelford between 6th-8th October. 

An in person event that will champion professional expertise, best practice, coupled with innovation and a celebration of the diversity and resilience of our members and students to tackle the issues facing our profession over the last two years. 

We look forward to celebrating and acknowledging the effort put in by all. 

#leadership     #innovation

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

IRRV President's Letter - September 2021

Since I last wrote the Institute and indeed other professional bodies have all be focusing their attention on a number of legislatives announcements and of course responses to consultations. It certainly has not been the quite month of August and September has started and is already packed full of meetings both in person and virtual.

Our response to the consultation on the frequency of revaluations should be clear - The government's proposals for more frequent business rates revaluations in England are an important and integral part of a wider fundamental review of the business rates system. 

As an Institute with a broad-church of views, experience and opinions we remain focused on what needs to be done to secure the right solutions for our profession as well as stakeholders in areas of our practice. We are supportive of the proposed move to a three-yearly cycle which should also be regarded as a natural stepping stone to ultimately achieving two-yearly or even annual revaluations in the future. 

In our response however, we highlight that changes need to be accompanied, from the outset, by a shortening of the gap between the antecedent valuation date and the list coming into effect; and that this is realistically achievable through improved processes that are enabled by greater use of appropriate technology.

Now is the time to size the opportunity and to champion the delivery of collaborative technology. There is a real opportunity here for modernising the public presentation and accessibility of the list, as part of the transformation process. Only time will tell if Minister and Officials are sufficiently bold and aspire to fundamental reforms or whether they will merely tinker with the system.

Other matters being reviewed as I write include the approach to changes to the Central List which present some real questions as to how the Central List and Local lists interact and the consequences that will undoubtably follow for the financing of local government, this at a time when local services and support is most needed by our local communities.

The first two weeks of September see the IRRV Scottish Association Conference, a virtual affair save for the in-person Golf Day (Covid compliant of course) in Crieff, and I am also looking forward to hosting two events one for contacts from a range of other professional organisations supportive of and aligned to IRRV interests and the other a meeting of Honorary Members and Past Presidents. 

I have also been delighted to participate in and listen to a range of presentations, all part of the IRRV Performance Awards 2021. I am extremely pleased that we have seen a sizeable number of entries to this year’s awards process and each and every entrant needs to be congratulated for their submission and efforts to celebrate innovation, excellence, best practice and hard work in supporting their clients, customers and offer across public and private sectors.

I am also extremely pleased to see a great line up of key note speakers for our annual conference taking place in Telford and if you have not already booked, please do so now as it will be a great event providing us all with the opportunity to get #togetherintelford where we can all meet again in person. We have a number of special offers and of course the highlight of the final day will be the Performance Awards dinner. I am particularly pleased that we will be supporting both the IRRV Benevolent Fund and the Injured Jockeys Fund at the Gala Dinner and our host for the evening, Risih Persad, will be know to many of you as a sports presenter who hails from Trinidad. His work has covered a variety of sports; equestrian (including horse racing obviously!), cricket and golf to name but a few. He was also extremely fortunate to be one of the few non competitors to be attending the Tokyo Olympic Games. He has also led the way within the media industry and now in sport on how to better promote diversity something for us all to acknowledge and support when it comes to our own lives.

So lots to do and I look forward to meeting you all in Telford and on my travels around the country in the next few weeks before handing over to the President for 2021/22 Alistair Townsend.

Best wishes


Andrew Hetherton - IRRV President

Sunday, July 11, 2021

IRRV President's Letter - July 2021

Outside its not at all like summer overcast, wind and rain abound but thankfully the IRRV Associations Golf competition took place earlier in the week when teams gathered at Maxstoke Park Golf Course for this annual event. Bob Trahern organiser extraordinary ably assist by myself, David Magor and Council member Ian Ferguson dished out goodies for the assembled teams. The event was blessed with what now appears to have been the better day of weather for the week to come. A big thank you to the sponsors who supported the event and to those who were able to attend – this the first in person event for me as IRRV National President in the last 16 months.

The month of June has been and extremely busy month with a series of meetings and IRRV events. 

IRRV was pleased to present the “Summer Series” which provided members and practitioners with a series of seminars covering the latest in local taxation and revenues, the approach and potential for a new dawn for the post pandemic rating system, the challenge of reforming welfare, the approach to fraud and investigation and finally the significant of enforcement of debt and re-starting compliance and enforcement. All these issues will play their part in framing the working of IRRV members in the coming weeks and no doubt months to come.

I was also pleased to be able to attend IRRV East Anglia Association a virtual event and was able to provide an update on the work of the IRRV on professional matters and David Magor provided details of the work being undertaken by IRRV staff. There has certainly been plenty of issues for those working in our profession.

I have in the last month been able to attend the Valuation Tribunal User Group meeting (VTUG) VTUG and the coming month will also see an additional Professional Bodies Liaison Group meeting to consider particular issues with the current Check Challenge Appeal system presenting detailed issues for practitioners. The highlighting of such issues which affect ratepayers and their agents insofar as detailed workings of the CCA system are not the only issue however with local authorities also encountering issues with the processing of reports for omissions and inaccuracies in the rating list which have a direct impact on local authority revenue. 

The introduction of a bill the Rating (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) was being considered by the Bill Committee. Brought about as a result of significant numbers of Material Change in Circumstance proposals from ratepayers many of whom are represented by IRRV members. The government considered that the system including the submission of MCCs and reductions in rate liability is not the right approach to deal with the impacted of pandemic with economic wide impacts. I was pleased to work with members of IRRV Council and indeed the Faculty Boards to consider the detail of the Bill. It was good to see IRRV Chief Executive David Magor invited to provide evidence to the Bill Committee and a written submission was also provided. As an Institute and with the breadth and depth of experience it still remains abundantly clear to me that there is further work to do in ensuring the parliamentarians and indeed many businesses appear to struggle to understand the business rate system. The IRRV is well placed to inform and frame the approach to such legislation. The Bill having completed its committee stage is now reported to the House of Commons and go to third reading prior being considered by the House of Lords. It seems at present that Royal Ascent is unlikely until the Autumn. IRRV has highlighted this and pressed for early publication of guidance on how the relief which accompanies the Bill is to be apportioned and indeed distributed. 

As many readers will know a Consultation has also been launched on the frequency of revaluations  as part of the ongoing work of government on the Fundamental Review of Business Rates  - responses are due by 24th August 2021 that undoubtably will require input from members and indeed the Faculty Boards and various committees of IRRV Council in the coming few weeks.  Whilst seeking to promote improved fairness both for ratepayers and other stakeholders there are a number of implications for us all in the profession on the outcomes of this consultation and the likely reforms to follow.

As I write IRRV Council will be preparing to meet in late July and consider not only how the Institute is adapting and changing but also ensuring that we are in a position to continue to support our members and students. It is pleasing to note that the conferences and events are starting to appear in my diary. Celebrating success and the work of members and their colleagues across the profession who have worked so hard over the last 18 months is essential and to that end I was pleased to see a great selection of applications for the IRRV Performance Awards. Whilst the judging will encompass more of a virtual inspection approach, we can all hopefully look forward to celebrating success in person at the IRRV National Conference and Exhibition with a return to Telford between the 6th and 8th of October.

On that note I want to wish you all the best for the summer holidays, take the opportunity to enjoy time with family and friends, enjoy the summer holiday period and let's look forward to what undoubtably will be a busy few months to come in the Autumn.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Latest update from the President

This month seems to have flow by and I have been pleased to attend a number of events including the Northern Counties IRRV Association AGM. I am looking forward to my first in person event as the road map for easing of restrictions permits, I hope to be able to attend some in the closing few months of this Presidential term of office, so please let me know as you as can.

My virtual appearance at the Northern Counties AGM provided an update to the members present on issues affecting the profession whilst David Magor the IRRV CEO was able to update on the work of IRRV in supporting our members, students and more generally the profession.

The last month has seen a number of meetings and liaison group meetings which will undoubtably influence the future for our profession.

The Queens most gracious speech to the both Houses of Parliament confirmed the Government’s intention “to level up opportunities across all parts of the United Kingdom supporting jobs, businesses and economic growth and in addressing the impact of the pandemic on public services”.  Secondary legislation had already been introduced to limit the grounds for business rates appeals on the basis of Non-Pharmaceutical Intervention (NPI’s) from 25th March 2021, along with a £1.5bn package of further assistance for business. The Rating (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Bill will make the necessary legislative changes to give retrospective effect. The issue affecting many of our members is the administration of the relief package but also having to deal with the challenges in the interim to protect their clients’ interests. This will undoubtably result in the preparation of challenge submissions. This was a topic of discussion at the Professional Bodies Liaison Group Meeting I attended. It has also been confirmed that the Valuation Officer Agency are, it seems, not going to progress Covid MCC challenges given the legislative programme, yet ratepayers and their agents are undoubtably going to have to consider protecting their interests with the submission of appeals (albeit at no cost). It seems to many in the profession therefore that the sooner the legislation is progressed through Parliament the better for clarity, the delivery of necessary support and what is to be likely wasted work on checks, challenges and appeals.

Another event I was able to observe took place in the Palace of Westminster this being a debate in Westminster Hall on “Regulation of Business Rate Reduction Services” tabled by Kevin Hollinrake MP for Thirsk & Malton with cross party support from a number of MPs who were all rightly concerned about so-called rouge rating agents. There was a call for industry regulation to protect vulnerable businesses who are suffering financial distress as a consequence of instructing rogue rating surveyors. This is an increasing problem for reputable firms and indeed those who are “succoured” in or as it was suggested subjected to misinformation and alleged fraudulent alteration of contracts. The irony or scandal, if you like, being that in some instances the purported savings were in fact reliefs and grants available to the said businesses by merely writing formally to their local authority. Sadly, the IRRV and other professional bodies are powerless at present to take action as the perpetrators are not members. I would certainly support consideration of regulation or register of providers but the administration of such a scheme needs to be considered extremely carefully and may be best provided by an independent body such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) much in the same way as insurance and the financial services sector is regulated. I hope to work with IRRV Council and Faculty Boards to work up proposals on a solution that works for all and present a joint approach with other professional bodies.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the calls for reform of business rates. Reference was made to the Fundamental Review of Business Rates, in the debate, along with calls for the consideration of a Land Value Tax (LVT). I know there are a wide range of views on reform and what might or should work but there remain man unknown unknowns when it comes to a wholesale change of approach. The first being how this translates into an effective tax that funds local services but also, second, the approach to openness and transparency when it comes to the disclosure of evidence. Issues, which some would suggest are not working for the present system, yet alone an approach based on land value with limited transactions. Considering a lease register could help with the present system and avoid the need for wholesale change provided the overall tax rate is reviewed and reduced from an eyewatering 50% plus.

On the subject of grants and reliefs I think we should always be mindful of the sterling work that has been undertaken across Local Government to deliver numerous business grants, discounts and reliefs to support payments made to individuals and businesses affected by the pandemic. The efforts of Local Authorities should be acknowledged as the work was undertaken in very difficult circumstances not only having to work remotely but also with a fast-moving pace with guidance issued at short notice or where it was subject to numerous iterations.

Early June will see a Summer Series of events run by the IRRV, there will be plenty of activity with meetings of the IRRV Council in July which will be reported in Insight. Then all being well we will be hoping for a successful and hopefully in person return to Telford for the IRRV National Conference, Exhibition and Performance Awards so plenty to look forward to.  But till then enjoy summer and ensure that you make the most of the weather and the opportunity to meet colleagues, friends and family.

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


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