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:
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
'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
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.'
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.