On 29 December 2017 the Government published the draft Non-Domestic Rating (Property in Common Occupation) Bill. It made provision to reinstate elements of the Valuation Office Agency’s (VOA) practice in identifying rateable premises in multi-occupied buildings before the decision in Woolway v Mazars (2015). That practice was inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s explanation that the law does not treat as a single unit for rating purposes adjoining floors in a building occupied by the same business but accessible only via common parts.
From January 2018 we corresponded with the Department within the context of pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill, raising a number of detailed questions. We also asked the Department to send us the responses it had received to its public consultation in order to inform our ongoing scrutiny. We were therefore disappointed and surprised that the Government presented the subsequent Bill on 28 March 2018 before sending these responses and when we had not completed our scrutiny. We consider this a discourtesy and believe there are lessons to be learned for the Government in terms of future engagement in pre-legislative scrutiny.
Notwithstanding the process, we are satisfied with the overall objectives and policy goals of the draft Bill. But we are concerned that the Government has not taken sufficient steps to assess the potential financial effects on local authorities and urge it to do so as soon as possible. We are publishing the consultation responses, subsequently received, alongside this Report and have appended our correspondence with the Minister, to assist Parliament as the Bill progresses.
Published: 18 April 2018