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


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


Saturday, August 1, 2020

President's Letter for August 2020

For some the months of July and August might be the time for considering a well earnt break from the office but 2020 has proven to us all to expect the unexpected and a complete change of approach to our the “normal” routine.

The first three weeks of July have been taken up with working with fellow members of Council and the staff at IRRV HQ on plans for our first virtual conference (6-8 October 20) along with arrangements to enable the IRRV to support our professional members and students with their work and studies.

I was pleased to be able to attend on behalf of the IRRV the most recent Professional Bodies Liaison Group meeting where the IRRV representatives were pleased to endorse an update on the issues around the approach to Material Change in Circumstance Appeals and the outcomes from the recent UKSC judgement concerning Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs).  I was also pleased to join members of the Wessex Association Executive with updates on matters affecting the Association locally.

Earlier in the year at the Spring Statement the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a fundamental review of business rates with details to follow. Whilst I and colleagues had outline discussions on the scope and format of the review it was only toward the end of July that further details were announced through a call for evidence with the discussion being focused around two areas which will form the basis of detailed consideration by the Institute. 

The first element will consider the multiplier and approach to reliefs and needs to be concluded by 18th September. Responses are therefore expected in short order and for many the outcomes will merely be a further sticking plaster to address immediate concerns.  Of course, the support for the Retail Leisure and Hospitality Sectors to date has been welcome and elements of the support are continuing but the key consideration will be whether support will be increased further and what will be done for the financial years 2021/22 and 2022/23. 

The second aspect of the review is to encompass a wider consideration of the approach to the future and additional time has been given to engage fully with all of the issues in the call for evidence indeed alternatives. Responses on this section are invited by 31st October 2020 ahead of the review’s conclusions in Spring 2021.

I was disappointed to see that consideration of the approach to Council Tax was not included in the wider remit. Another key point of consideration surrounded the merits or otherwise of  both a Land Value Tax, being referred to as the Capital Value of property and how if at all an online or sales tax would work and importantly work for local government. These issues along with others have been the subject of detailed enquiry both by previous Governments, the Treasury Select Committee,  and indeed many stakeholders have sought to set out their views for reform and what needs to change.
It has also been confirmed that the next Revaluation in England will now take place in April 2023, with an April 2021 AVD, this was not at all surprising although again it will now be interesting to see what is to happen in both Scotland and Wales where a nuanced and alternative approaches are being considered. Legislation will be required to defer to the later date and of course this approach seems at odds with the desire from many quarters for more frequent revaluations.

I along with colleagues on Council, the faculty boards and indeed you all as members and practitioners need to participate in the review as it presents a number of challenges. I believe the IRRV is well placed to be original, informative and forward thinking in the approach that needs to be adopted. There will of course be those who will no doubt revert to type and bring forward the same old arguments that have been put forward before. The key however is to seize the opportunity to review and make appropriate changes to the system that benefit all.

As July comes to a close and we move into August and its time for my usual trip to Goodwood Races. As some of you know in the main horse racing has been behind closed doors since the beginning of June save for those essential for race days and limited access for Owners, the experience has been very different. I couldn’t escape the poor weather on the 9th July when attending Newmarket where the persistent rain sought to dampen the day, I was so pleased however despite being soaked to see Progressive Rating win the Class 2 Heritage Handicap. The lesson perhaps to be noted are the significant efforts put in and the lengths to which many have gone to comply with best advice, best practice and keep us all safe. This cooperation and a desire from all to get the show back on the road with the first trial public event was to have taken place at Goodwood Racecourse on the 1st August. I was hoping to attend along with 5000 others but you will be aware of the change of circumstances which have led to this having to be put on hold. It’s a reminder to us all that we are not out of the woods yet and irrespective of whether you are a fan of horse racing or perhaps another sport or form of entertainment or leisure activity, everyone is pulling together to find ways in which we can work to return to a way of life that will enable us all to participate and enjoy some of those things that only six months ago were just the norm. 
I know you, your colleagues and friends are all working in different ways to help and find a way through the challenges but it is also important to take time for well deserved break or holiday and have some down time – keep safe and best wishes to you all.


Monday, June 29, 2020

Letter from the President – July 2020

We certainly live in extra ordinary times and it is for that reason that I start my letter to you this month with an update following the Extra Ordinary General Meeting of the IRRV. The meeting took place on Thursday 25th June and thank you to those who were able to participate and consider the special resolution. Council for the IRRV and Officers have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that the Institute continues to provide not only as many of the usual services that we provide but also to consider the best way in which we can provide members with support at what has been a crucial time for those working in our respective fields.

The special resolution was passed and enables the Council to take a number of actions to ensure we are best placed to deal with what we all hope is a move to more normal times. The official post holders will remain in place and there will not be elections to Council in 2020.

The ever-changing uncertainty has also meant that after careful consideration, coupled with concerns raised about the safety of members, attendees and sponsors of an “in person” conference the IRRV Council have decided that we will postpone the event to October 2021. 

Instead, we have decided that there would be great value in transforming this years conference into an exciting virtual event. IRRV staff, along with Council members are working on a format which will provide a great opportunity for those attending to hear and learn of changes to our profession, share best practice and hear of the latest updates and guidance. 

The online conference will run over a slightly shorter period but will include what all have come to expect, as an opportunity to be informed with the different professional streams hearing presentations by leading industry professionals. Catering also for professionals within revenues, rating, collection and enforcement, valuation, fraud and welfare benefits.

This format will also enable you to keep updated with all the content being provided to you in e-format to reference at your convenience. We also aim to showcase a virtual exhibition from sponsors and exhibitors ensuring that content will remain accessible on line for a period after the event. We will also still need to conduct other formalities linked to the adoption of the formal Accounts as required by law for both the IRRV and the Benevolent Fund and of course appointment of Auditors 
It is also at this time of year that I would have been looking forward to a number of events including the Rating Surveyors’ Association reception at the House of Lords, visits to Associations including the Wessex Association Annual General meeting and Mini Conference which this year was to be at the Bovington Tank museum along with planned visits also to both the South East Association and the East Anglia Association all sadly could not take place. I’m sure that as the pandemic is over come and the restrictions ease we will be able to look forward to a number of these and other events being rescheduled.

As I write my diary reminder has also alerted me to a planned annual meeting of Honorary Members and Past Presidents of the Institute and of course it is at this time of year that we would also host representatives from other kindred bodies. These events provide us with the opportunity to catch up, meet friends of the Institute and share experiences and views on the matters that have been concerning them during the year and that are likely to come to a head in the months to come. It is also a time to remember those who have sadly passed away and to reflect on their time supporting the IRRV in so many different ways. As some of you will be aware we sadly heard of the passing of Colin Thrower and Ron Skinner who were both Honorary Members of the Institute

Professionally we can all expect to see a number of challenges ahead, addressing the various situations that are inevitably affecting us all in different ways but also by drawing on the support of friends, family and colleagues to do what we can to support businesses, the provision of Local Authority services to the vulnerable and those in need and of course clients in both the public and private sectors.

We await details on the how the next steps of the HM Treasury plan to consult on the fundamental review of business rates and a matter which will be of concern to many is the financing of local authorities. It is for these reasons therefore that I am sure our October conference, whilst being held virtually, will be critical in shaping and developing views from across the IRRV and the wider profession. I’m hopeful also that you will all participate in a range of different activities both educational and social that will ensure that we all are able to support each other and prepare for what will no doubt be further challenges ahead.

We also have to look forward and whilst the Performance Awards and Gala Dinner will not take place in 2020 I know and am sure that there will be many stories of all the professional hard work and effort that so many of you put into your daily lives. So don’t despair, I and the other members of the Awards panel are looking forward to seeing and hearing of these as we hope you will consider preparing submissions for the Performance Awards in 2021.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Latest update from the President

The month of May – the beginning of summer perhaps and yet we are all making the most of being at home with family and keeping in touch with extended friends and family on line. We are nearing the halfway point of the calendar year yet so much has happened but in a different way. Much of the month has seen fair weather and the frustrations of following the advice. It has been difficult for some to follow, yet in the main the new message to stay alert, to control the virus and save lives has been followed. In the work place and at home there has been plenty to consider as we have tried to get to grips with technology, online meetings in various forms or formats and discussion points on matters pertinent to the profession or just to keep in touch.

The beginning of the month saw many commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE day. I saw a series of most interesting posts from IRRV members participating in their own special way as part of the commemorations.

This month for me however has see an “stream” if you’ll pardon the pun, of meetings and catch ups on issues. From an IRRV perspective has seen two meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee and the first virtual meeting of the Institute's Council. There are challenges ahead but the work of Officers, Staff and Council members on a range of projects and initiatives appears well received. The Institute has been actively working to support colleagues and government on the various initiatives to support businesses and those struggling as a result of pandemic. I think likely many organisations we have seen firsts, one that I was extremely pleased to participate in was a virtual meeting of IRRV Association Representatives. It was extremely well attended and the feedback positive. David Magor, Gary Watson and I were able to update Association representatives on issues and discussion and take questions. The aim is to continue with these catch ups in the coming months.

I have also taken the opportunity to participate in a number of CPD events including a series of updates “Light at the end of the tunnel? - Introducing new evidence in the VTE and UT under Check Challenge, Appeal” and two technical sessions “The History & Application of the R&E method” and “The History and Application of the Contractors method” all proved interesting and very educational. There is certainly not shortage of updates and webinars to improve and enhance learning.

Of significant importance however was the outcome of the Supreme Court decision relating to Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) with the judgement being handed down by Lord Carnwath. The judgement provided plenty of commentary in the press and from those in the profession. This issue had been ongoing for some 10 years and presented challenges for all parties. I was reminded however of the reference in the judgement to comments made by Lord Sumption in Woolway (VO) v Mazars “the rating system has a very long history. As a fair and effective method of taxing property of all kinds, it has proved remarkably resilient and adaptable to technological developments and new forms of property” indeed and so have our members and the profession in adapting and changing working practices and the focus of their attentions in recent months and over many years to date.

For some the decision to press ahead with separately assessing ATMs caused consternation and bemusement. Others considered there to have been a wholesale change in behaviours that led to a transformation that required action. The outcome however is now clear in that keeping the approach simple, we should not overlook the context of rateable occupation nor the principle of who is in control.

Working as a professional requires us to be respectful of others, work competently, act with honesty and integrity, be reliable and accountable to be flexible exercise self-control. I am sure IRRV professionals we will continue to promote these values in our day to day work.

Finally, if you have not already seen the video David Magor and I prepared on the outcomes of the ATM case, this followed on from an initial update to members at the start of the month. It seems that such an approach has been well received and as a result the IRRV and its Council will continue to develop and present informative discussion and debate across all areas of practice. We would certainly welcome ideas for future topical discussion focusing on streams covering all disciplines including revenues, education, training, benefits and welfare.

Wishing you all well

Andrew Hetherton - IRRV President 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Letter from the President - April 2020

April as a month seemed on the face of it to be a busy month and I was looking forward to a range of events across the country. 

Associations who had planned events such as dinners and AGMs were to include the Thames Valley Gala Dinner, North Wales with an AGM, East Midlands AGM and number of other events were to have included a conference run by Landmark Chambers, the Rating Surveyors’ AGM and Dinner. Of course IRRV Council was also due to meet. Regrettably given the current “lockdown” these have either not taken place or not in the way that was originally intended.

I know many have been following the advice to “stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives” has been the mantra for us all to follow except for essential shopping, exercise or where working from home is not possible. I am pleased to note however a number of have used modern technology to facilitate meetings via on line meetings. 

I took the opportunity to attend the Rating Surveyors’ Association Annual General Meeting held on “Zoom” Thomas Stratton, RSA President, attended with his badge of office and I thought I would make an effort to don my dinner suit, black tie of course and to have a glass of fizz in hand! It wasn’t quite the same though, albeit I was pleased to hear of his year in office and the work of the RSA coupled with the announcement of two new Honorary Members; Christopher Lewsley Barrister at Landmark Chambers who is also Editor of Rating & Valuation Reporter and Editor of Rating Appeals, and Duncan McLaren MBE a technical advisor at the Valuation Officer Agency. It was also noted that three new members of the RSA Committee were appointed John Webber (Colliers), Simon Griffin (JLL) and Alex Dickinson (Avison Young), congratulations to them all. Another departure from the norm is that Tom  and the current Vice President John Myerson (Montagu Evans) along with  Vice President Elect Tim Johnson (CBRE) are working as a team over the coming months on an extended handover

I have also started calling each of the IRRV Associations across the Country, speaking to Presidents and other Association Officers. I was able to jump in on to a call via Zoom with Catherine Nicholson Lancashire & Cheshire Association President and other Association Executive members which was most convivial given we were all sat in our respective gardens in the evening sun enjoying a drink together, chatting of the issues we have faced and how plans are being put in place to address pressing matters and concerns.

This month was to have included an IRRV Council meeting which did not take place but two Policy & Resources meetings were held to address a number of challenges that the Institute faces. Council and Officers are working on plans and preparing for the future. Some difficult decisions are likely and both David Magor and I recorded a message to be distributed via Insight and email to all members which hopefully you will have seen by now.

During this period of enforced lock down like so many others I have sought to do a number of jobs at home, thankfully additional sustenance has been provided by my wife, Helen with a range of cakes, biscuits and refreshments served up by  “home” team – anything you want dad was the response from the kids, albeit I suspect that helping was more appealing than doing home schooling and homework. 
During the course of the last few weeks I have taken the opportunity like so many to play a small part in helping those who are rightly being shielded or who are vulnerable. Its part of the daily routine now that the alarm from the Royal Voluntary Service comes in, via a snazzy App and I head out to help deliver prescriptions locally. 

Aside from those dreaded DIY projects that never seemed to be done, now cannot be put off, I have also been busy sharing details and updates with those that follow on Twitter and Linked-In. Staff at IRRV virtual HQ have been working extremely hard to disseminate details of Government announcements, provide updates and offer advice to members that need clarification and assistance. 

I’ve also taken the opportunity like many of you, I’m sure, to also brush up on a few technical subjects from the world of rating and valuation, improving my own continuing professional development and learning about something new. I’m pleased to say that some of these will be available in the coming months including Pod Casts on topical matters from the profession in Insight and Valuer. I’m certain though that it wouldn’t be appropriate to share extracts from the book I’ve finally found time to read “Winner – My Racing Life” A.P.McCoy although its an interesting read.
Turning to the future, by the time you read this I am hoping that at least we will have started to see the numbers infected and needing treating for this dreadful virus fall, albeit we will not forget those loved ones and colleagues who have succumbed, nor indeed the national spirit of working together to support each other and all those working in the NHS, the Care services, emergency services and key workers that have provided support to us all. 

The focus of IRRV Council and Management has already turned to ensuring that we plan for the future, putting in place contingency arrangements and identifying not only opportunities for the here and now but also for the future with plans for web casts, virtual seminars and a different way of working but also once permitted conferences and meetings that rightly provide such a great opportunity for us all to share experiences and knowledge. Some including face to face meeting seem to be further away than perhaps we would like given that restrictions are likely to continue for some time to come, but we are planning and working hard to identify what is likely to be possible and workable in the circumstances.

In the meantime best wishes to you all, keep safe and well.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Letter from the President

We face very challenging times and I know our members and local Associations are working incredibly hard in very difficult circumstances. IRRV Staff at HQ and Council Members have been working to address key aspects of the working of the Institute and of course advising on issues at various levels of Government. As you can imagine things move quickly or need to be adapted and changed in light of a rapidly changing nation picture, however, we seek to communicate details where appropriate and provide updates as soon as we can. 

The Budget 2020 announcements were initially as trailed and expected. For many this presented a real opportunity, to address a number of issues including the overall burden of business ates, coupled with a need to address concerns about the process of dealing with Checks, Challenges and Appeals. Of course support for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 was welcomed but some have highlighted that its was not just small businesses that has been impacted. The virus presented a real problem for all especially in the hospitality and leisure sectors in addition to the issues already affecting the retail sector. So the following week further support was announced only a week later and the IRRV is working hard with MHCLG and BEIS to work on ways that the support can be provided as quickly as possible.

HM Treasury has also committed to a further “fundamental review of business rates” and terms of reference have been announced. The IRRV submitted its views in advance of the budget and will respond to the review of business rates providing its expertise and views in due course. Part of the scope of that review will be to consider further fundamental changes in the medium to long term, albeit to some they seem to a rehash of issues already identified in previous consultations.  A key issue being who pays the tax and exploring alternatives to business rates, “particularly within the taxation of land and property”. For many experienced valuers working in the field the suggestion that a land value tax is the solution is frankly misguided. If a land value tax were to be seriously considered, landlords and tenants will be reaching for their leases to see whether landlords are able to pass this tax onto their tenants. The other problem is the dearth of evidence and indeed how an aggrieved taxpayer will have access to the limited evidence. The publication of the technical assessment of the potential for Local Land Value Tax in Wales highlights that it is significantly more challenging than might at first be thought.

For many the announcement in England appears merely kicks the can well down the road and its not as if the Treasury Select Committee hadn’t spent nearly a year undertaking its own in-depth review. However given the unprecedented problems that we as a country indeed the world we are now faced a different challenge and that is to continue to support those who are at increased risk  of infection and alone with the focus very much being on deal with a global pandemic. 

In conjunction with senior staff and members of council we are seeking to prepare for the expected restrictions to contain the spread of the virus whilst seeking to reach out to those who need our support. Please remember the IRRV Benevolent fund is there to help members. We are also putting in place measures to support students working in Apprenticeships, those who were to be undertaking examinations and supporting best practice whilst providing ongoing support through continued professional development and the sharing of best practice.

In early March I was pleased to visit Bromsgrove, West Midlands attending the Dinner Dance hosted by IRRV West Midlands Association President Neil Jinks ably assisted by compare Andrew Ludwig. A most enjoyable evening and the Blackjack and Roulette tables were popular and the prize draw had numerous prizes so thanks to the sponsors and supporters. The following week was taken up with a personal pilgrimage to the home of jump racing and the Cheltenham Festival and I was pleased with the results with the racing, my best day was the Wednesday with a nice little accumulator (before I bailed out) and then of course the IRRV Cheltenham Challenge where I managed to finish third but congratulations to the winner Roger Draper who found 9 winners and accumulated 264 points well ahead of the rest of the field of nearly 50 entries. 

I missed St Patricks Day at the Race as I travelled back to London for what now appears to the final event for some time as I attended the London & Home Counties Association Dinner at the Inn Keepers  Hall. A most delightful setting in the City of London, a Grade II listed building (see below) featuring a beautifully preserved 17th Century Old Court Room and an impressive Great Hall. The dining menu and wines are a real treat and I can highly  recommend this event. My thanks and those of wife Helen, go to the President of London Home Counties Chris Boylett and his fellow executive members  including of course Chris Grose for all the organising behind the scenes. We also raised some additional funds via a raffle and auction for charity.

Sadly I was not as planned able to attend the Lancashire & Cheshire Association Dinner Dance an event I had been very much looking forward to, but my thanks to Catherine Nicholson, Association President.  I’ve looked at the photo wall on line and all seemed to be having a great time.

So in closing I would like us all to remember that there is always hope – whilst the current situation is creating a severe threat to public health, our economic health and indeed for some present real mental health concerns we know that with the breadth and depth of our shared experience and we can collectively make a real difference working collaboratively  and the IRRV as a whole will shine through.