Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Valuation Office Agency

  Follow-up to evidence session on 24 January 2007.

How many times were Valuation Office Agency staff attacked in the year before the 2005 council tax revaluation in Wales and how many times were staff attacked in the year of the revaluation?

  There were no physical attacks on Valuation Office Agency staff in either 2004-05, the year prior to the council tax revaluation in Wales, or 2005-06, the year of the revaluation. There has been one incident in the current year (2006-07) in which there was a threat to a member of staff, but not an actual assault. Although extremely rare, the Agency will always take any such incident very seriously.

How many tribunal hearings have been rescheduled during 2005-06? What percentage of the total board of tribunal members are used, and what impact does this have on the performance of the Valuation Office Agency?

  Local valuation tribunals are independent bodies whose responsibilities include hearing and determining appeals against nondomestic rating assessments and council tax bandings. In England central administrative support and procedural advice is provided by the Valuation Tribunal Service, a nondepartmental public body whose Board advises the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on matters relating to the tribunals. In Wales there are comparable arrangements overseen by the Welsh Assembly Government.

  In brief, where a proposal is made to alter an entry in a rating list or a (council tax) valuation list by or on behalf of a ratepayer or council tax payer which cannot be resolved within a defined statutory period, an appeal is transmitted to the valuation tribunal within whose geographical jurisdiction the property concerned is situated. The tribunal is then responsible for listing such cases for hearing and determination. The tribunals may by administrative decision grant postponements—at the request of any party—before a hearing commences: but once a hearing has started, any adjournment is entirely a judicial decision.

  In practical terms, liaison takes place before the start of—and as necessary during—each financial year between the Valuation Office Agency and the relevant tribunal in order to assist with the planning of workloads. This is at an administrative level, both nationally and locally, and is designed to ensure that there is a shared understanding of likely work demands and therefore appropriate provision of resource from within the funding available to each organisation. Necessarily, forecasting is not a precise science and therefore the actual demand for tribunal listings and hearings could be more or less than such estimates indicate.

  In 2005-06 sufficient listings of cases by the valuation tribunals in England were planned to match the forecast demand, though with a greater element of uncertainty in the second half of the year regarding the number of substantive hearings. This was because the first appeals made against entries in the new 2005 rating lists (effective from 1 April 2005) would begin to flow through and might require a higher level of tribunal involvement until value levels were better established. Out of 3,672 tribunal hearings scheduled in 2005-06, 2,911 took place. Reasons for hearings not taking place will include instances where appeals were agreed or withdrawn at a late stage or postponed. Of the 266,251 rating appeals listed by the tribunal hearings for hearing, 9,077 were postponed and 39,104 adjourned (ie part heard).*

*Note: All figures derive from the Valuation Tribunal Service in England Annual Report for 2005-06.

The Valuation Office Agency does not maintain a record of hearings that may have been cancelled for other reasons or have access to information about levels of usage as a percentage of tribunal members' availability. It believes however that the variance from its projected clearance of rating appeals for 2005-06 is substantially accounted for by the incidence of postponements and adjournments, much of which is related to a greater level of contention over the cases arising under the new rating lists.

  In Wales similar joint liaison took place, though forecasting was more challenging because of the coincidence of revaluations for council tax and for rating—both taking effect from 1 April 2005. No details have been published by the Valuation Tribunal Service in Wales of hearings scheduled and completed, nor again does the Valuation Office Agency have access to information about levels of usage as a percentage of tribunal members' availability.

  Although formal council tax appeal numbers were less than forecast, the proportion requiring listing and substantive hearing by a tribunal was higher than anticipated, which will have impacted on tribunals' in year planning. Nevertheless the principal reason that the Valuation Office Agency did not meet its target for these was the priority given to the successful resolution of informal enquiries.

Valuation Office Agency

7 February 2007






 
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