‘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 been providing rating valuation advice to The Welsh Rugby Union Limited (“WRU”) and Millennium Stadium plc for many years. They were recently successful in achieving substantial reductions in the assessments of the Millennium Stadium, covering both the 2005 and 2010 rating list. These negotiated reductions yielded savings of c.£3.5m which, crucially, allows the WRU to re-invest in rugby throughout Wales. They advise the WRU across the group portfolio including the National Centre of Excellence in the Vale of Glamorgan. The valuation issues across the WRU portfolio are complex requiring a high level of understanding of the funding and finances of professional sport in Wales. Cooke & Arkwright’s experience and understanding of these issues and application to the rating valuation have yielded these substantial negotiated reductions. The WRU and the Millennium Stadium entrust our work to organisations with the required levels in experience and expertise in dealing with these complex issues. I am glad to say we have this expertise in Wales. I would have no hesitation in recommending ratepayers making use of this Welsh based expertise.

Steve Phillips, Group Finance Director, Welsh Rugby Union Group