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.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

COVID-19 and the Institute

We hope that this finds you and those close to you safe and well.  The COVID 19 crisis is an unprecedented challenge in today's ever-changing environment; our top priority is the safety and well-being of our members, employees, their families, stakeholders, and the communities in which we operate.

The pandemic has disrupted life for people around the globe. It is impossible to predict the future impact on the IRRV, but we want to assure you we are monitoring the situation and its effect on the organisation closely.

We recognise that the pandemic has brought with it a significant economic and professional impact and that many of you have had to adjust to it. In response we are actively engaging with Government to ensure your concerns are being raised.  We have acted both individually and in collaboration with partners in our areas of interest and we are in constant discussions with government departments ensuring your interests are represented.

The Institute has cancelled all in-person IRRV hosted events through to the end of May. We will assess the status of future events and notify members of any changes. We have taken action on courses, examinations and our apprenticeship programme.  The Education Team will remain in contact with students and apprentices to ensure they are fully aware of our decision making.

The Forum Service has completed its current round of meetings and will deliver the face to face element of the service virtually until further notice. Our other web based services will continue in the normal way and we have added special features to meet the demands of the current emergency and we will explore ways to offer additional materials online.

The Institute's headquarters building is closed but all employees are working normally from remote locations.  All employees have remote access capabilities, enabling the office to continue to operate and respond to members. We are doing everything we can to assist our members in this crisis.

On behalf of the Institute's Council and our headquarters team, we wish you and your family health and safety during this difficult time and encourage you to stay safe, look after your personal wellbeing and follow the instructions of the Government.
David Magor OBE IRRV (Hons)                   Andrew Hetherton MRICS IRRV (Hons)
Chief Executive                                        President 

Friday, February 28, 2020

February 2020 update from the President!

February – a quite month well it could have been save for a series of meetings including BRAF (Business Rates Advisory Forum) PBLG (Professional Bodies Liaison Group) both of which the IRRV is represented on and it is a welcome opportunity to hear of the work of key stakeholders working with the Valuation Office Agency. There are clearly concerns about the process of Check Challenge Appeal and the fairness of the business rates system and the usual budget round of chit chat and briefing coupled with of course the most recent BRIL (Business Rates Information Letter) setting out the Governments approach to what are clearly challenging times and then ….. it was all change at the Treasury!

So, as Rishi Sunaak, the new Chancellor has taken over to prepare his new budget. I was interested to see a recent article referring to the Micawber principles in David Copperfield who is noted for his inability to work his way out of poverty. Two of his enunciations are “something will turn up” and “annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.” Something of a rabbit out of hat is needed. 

But I ask myself why – we had a detailed report prepared by the Treasury Select Committee published at the tail end of the last Parliament which provided some clear thoughts on what the issues are coupled with the Institute having provided its own thoughts on how to address the issues. Yet the response appears to be some way off we are told.

For many professionals and we have heard this time and time again, a revaluation for Council Tax is well overdue and David Magor our CEO has also set out alternatives including possible solutions with a move to values being based on a percentage of capital values.

The area of most concern however remains the suggestion that LVT or a Land Value Tax is some kind of silver bullet which will provide a meaningful change – sadly this to my mind is not the case:

Moving from a rental based approach for which there is a substantial body of evidence to an LVT approach needs to be considered extremely carefully and as such change for changes sake is not the way to address the issues here. Firstly, as already mentioned the evidence base is limited, practicing valuers are currently able to research and find evidence on rental values, indeed most homeowners will be able to have a good attempt at being able to estimate the value of their homes for capital value or rental purposes. Secondly are the implications that come from LVT as the pool of taxpayers a swathe of central and local government. Third, whilst land registry records have improved there are likely to be significant issues in the identification of the ultimate landowner. Fourth, the problems of separating the value of land from the buildings and of course any transactions that take place don’t do so in such a way as to be able to separate out the value of land versus building. Finally who is to stay that such a change of approach wont in fact be passed on to occupiers. So any change needs to carefully thought through and report from the TSC provided a useful guide to the issues at hand. 

A land-based tax is theoretically appealing as it charges landowners rather than tenants—although it cannot be known on whom the final incidence of the tax would fall—and incentivises the best possible use of land. However, the practicalities of implementation are very difficult. It is likely that there would be more appeals. There would be an enhanced level of technical judgement required, particularly in built up areas where there are very few sales to generate a reliable value and it is very difficult to separate the value of land from the value of the buildings that are situated on that land. Land value tax would incentivise high-density usage, and there could be instances where this would not be the desired outcome, such as green spaces.

At the end of February, we finally had confirmed the latest BRIL 02/2020 confirming the multipliers for 2020/21.

From an Institute perspective engagement now gather a pace and I am extremely pleased to be visiting the Island of Jersey to meet Edward Trevor MBE FRICS IRRV (Hons) on issues on property taxation, some may recall an article by him in 2016 on the issues. A series of Association events follow quickly afterwards including the West Midlands Association Dinner, the always popular gastronomic excellence of London & Home Counties Dinner at the Innholders Company with Micheline star chef Herbert Berger, of course there’s a clash with the Cheltenham Festival week so a little shuttling back and forth required prior to a dash up to the Lancashire Association Dinner. 

I’ll need to recover for a short while after that so I’ve lined up for the following week (mid March) a trip to Washington DC for the 21st World Bank - Land and Property Conference 2020: Institutions for Equity and Resilience and chairing a session on strategies for sustainable urban development. 

Plenty therefore for my letter to you in March by when we will know whether it was a rabbit out of a hat or a different magicians trick that landed on budget day!

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.