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TIME FOR CHANGE IN THE WAY APPEALS AGAINST BUSINESS RATE VALUATIONS ARE HEARD, SAYS DETR MINISTER

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Nick Raynsford has called for a major change in the way appeals against business rate valuations are heard. ...
Nick Raynsford has called for a major change in the way appeals against business rate valuations are heard.

The department of environment, transport and regions minister said

the current system needed reform to make it quicker to act, less

expensive and simpler. Mr Raynsford said:

'The system of hearing appeals is far too confusing, takes too

long and offers poor value for money. Everyone recognises that change

is needed - and it is needed now.'

The call follows a review of the tribunal service and the way in

which appeals are dealt with. Although surveys conducted during the

review found general support for the work of the valuation tribunals

they also showed there is room for improvement.

Yesterday the minister was guest speaker at the National Association of Valuation Tribunals' annual conference at Stratford upon Avon.

He told delegates:

'Our research reveals the roles of the Valuation Office and Valuation

Tribunal are not clear. To the ratepayer, it can seem as if both

services are dealing with their case at the same time. This blurs

accountability.

'Most tax payers have to wait many months before their case is

listed for hearing. They feel badly informed about what was expected

of them and find the process to be confrontational.

'In addition to clients' worries we are concerned about the

operational efficiency and viability of the service. There are

significant economies of scale available in reducing the number of

administrative units.'

Mr Raynsford said that reducing administrative units from 38 to 14

will result in saving more than 15 per cent of the total cost of the

service and lead to greater efficiency and flexibility. Part of these

savings will be invested in better information technology. He said

the final detail of the proposals was still being worked upon.

Mr Raynsford added:

'We are still open to proposals about the best way of reforming

the system. We want to encourage dialogue to make these changes

better for everyone.'

Notes

1. Valuation Tribunals were established under the Local

Government Finance Act 1988. They hear appeals about valuations,

primarily for rating of non-domestic property, although some Vts are

responsible for drainage rate appeals. They also hear appeals about

liability for the community charge and appeals about the banding of

domestic property and liability for council tax. They deal with

around 300,000 rating cases annually, and around 80,000 council tax

valuation appeals. Council tax cases are dealt with on average in six

months, and rating cases in 15-18 months.

2. VTs are independent from one another. There are 56 in

England, and at the start of the year they were administered through

38 offices, which administer from one to four tribunals. The areas

of jurisdiction broadly follow a county structure, except in the

metropolitan areas. There are currently around 2,500 members of Vts,

who are appointed by local authorities.

3. In September 1997 a consultation paper on the Valuation

Tribunals Financial Management and Policy Review set out a number

of possible changes to procedures governing the hearing of ratepayers

proposals and appeals against non-domestic rating valuations

determined by the Valuation Office, including plans to open up the

system, improving documentation, clarification of responsibilities

and better guidance for business ratepayers.

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