‘Tortuous system’ designed to reduce appeals

Check, Challenge, Appeal portal 'impenetrable and unstable'

28 June 2017

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Businesses, leading rating practitioners and the Rating Surveyors Association (RSA) are mounting a vociferous campaign against the Valuation Office Agency’s (VOA) Check, Challenge, Appeal (CCA) portal, a new system introduced in England for businesses to contest their business rates assessments. They collectively contest that the new system is failing businesses and the VOA website portal through which challenges have to be made is not fit for purpose. It is being condemned as ‘hugely inefficient’ and judged ‘impenetrable and unstable’.

The UK Government introduced CCA in England on 1st April 2017 despite widespread business objection to many of its features. The Welsh Government has yet to confirm whether it proposes any changes in Wales.

Historically, businesses were able to appoint professional rating surveyors to represent their interests, but cannot now do so without having to first ‘claim’ each property separately using procedures that are extremely time consuming. Businesses complain that the VOA portal is frequently unavailable, and registration or claiming of properties is often rejected without explanation.

Andrew West, Director of Rating at Cooke & Arkwright, whose team represents clients in Wales and England says, “Our IT systems have had electronic communication with the VOA since 2005, but this has not yet been achieved satisfactorily for the 2017 revaluation in England. The new regime imposes the burden of proof on businesses, yet the VOA, which sets the rateable values using data and evidence it has collected, will not share that data with businesses. This sets businesses – and professional advisors acting on their behalf - an unduly onerous task that seems to serve no other purpose than to delay the process and potentially deny a fair outcome. At a time when businesses need reassurance, transparency, fairness and freedom from unnecessary red tape in the run-up to Brexit, this seems to be doing the exact opposite. A much simpler, sensible and admired system currently exists in Wales, and the same procedure should be adopted immediately in England.”

Businesses are being urged to take immediate action by sending one of two letters (depending on whether they are multi-site occupiers or SMEs) to their MPs, with copies to ministers. Meanwhile, the cross-bench peer John Lytton has tabled a Motion of Regret in Parliament. He told the House of Lords that the Check, Challenge, Appeal platform involved ‘the most tortuous’ registration and had been designed to ‘prevent appeals’.

Please click here to download the letters : Multi-site occupier or SME

Cooke & Arkwright have provided independent property consultancy services to the College for a number of years. This advice has included property valuations and negotiation around property acquisition and disposal, rent reviews and the preparation and negotiation of the College’s farm business tenancy agreement. The College has consistently received an excellent and professional service from Cooke & Arkwright and their valuable support to the College is recognised and appreciated.

Bob Bates, Director, Coleg Gwent