Part 3: programming policy
The Valuation Office Agency's (VOA) technical manual for the rating of business (non-domestic) property.
The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) receives all proposals for amending the rating lists. If the Valuation Officer (VO) cannot agree that a proposal is well founded, or cannot otherwise resolve the proposal the VO will be transmit it to the VT as an appeal. Management of appeals is by programming. The VOA administers and manages the programming of rating appeals for the mutual benefit of all parties to the process including ratepayers (and their representatives), the Valuation Tribunal Service and the Valuation Tribunals for England and Wales. Programming is the sensible grouping together of rating appeals to achieve settlement by planned negotiation, and to facilitate onward progression to Valuation Tribunal hearings for any cases that cannot be resolved in advance.
The VOA screen rating proposals to identify priority cases on receipt. These are cases where ratepayer hardship is apparent or where the proposal identifies physical changes to the property. The VO allocates priority cases for immediate attention. The VO will settle these cases by discussion wherever possible. If this is not achievable the VO will provide the appellant with their considered decision within 2 months of receiving the proposal. It will then be for the appellant to determine whether to continue with the case. The VO programmes any outstanding cases for formal discussion. The appellant can also approach the Valuation Tribunal Service to request an early listing which may avoid the need for programming.
1. General approach to programming
Sub-programmes (s-progs) are groups of appeals with a timeframe for discussion set by the start and target dates. The VOA composes s-progs in accordance with these principles:-
- The VOA will usually give 2 months notice of a s-prog start date.
- The VO will include proposals in s-progs on receipt if it is sensible to do so. For example if an appropriate s-prog is due to start soon after a proposal is received by the VO it would be timely and in the ratepayers interests to include that proposal for discussion. In these cases the notice period will be reduced.
- S-progs will ordinarily be 2 months or more in duration. No s-progs should be less that 1 month long.
- S-progs involving Rating Surveyors Association (RSA) central discussion will be at least 4 months long and planned in accordance with the agreed framework.
- The VO will plan and manage s-progs involving any other centrally coordinated class of property according to the agreed framework.
- The number of cases in any one s-prog will vary according to the profile of outstanding appeals.
2. S-prog composition
The VO has to balance the need to progress appeals promptly with the aim of grouping similar appeals together. When the VOA receives appeals in bulk the VO can and should create very specific s-progs. When the VO receives appeals intermittently and without connection to other appeals it will be necessary to relax the composition of a s-prog to enable timely progression.
S-progs ideally group together appeals on similar properties which are valued in the same way. The exception to this would be where the common theme is a material change of circumstances (MCC) e.g. a road works scheme, when it is sensible to group these appeals together irrespective of the property type.
The VO could adopt the following common themes for s-progs:-
- Valuation schemes. The VO has assessed properties by using valuation schemes. Valuation schemes are often related. This would therefore be a sensible starting point for composing s-progs.
- Property type, if other physical factors are less value significant e.g. appeals on licensed property
- Property characteristics, where these are value relevant e.g. industrial properties of a particular age profile across a defined geographical area.
- Location, where this is the significant factor that links the appeals in the s-prog e.g. appeals on retail properties in a specified town.
The VO may also have to compose very general s-progs to ensure ratepayers receive prompt attention if is not possible to group the appeals as set out above and achieve the speed of handling which all parties will wish to see.
3. Material change in circumstance (MCC) appeals and s-progs
Ideally the VO will consider MCC appeals after any underlying base value appeals have been resolved, and at a point in time when all parties can reasonably assess the impact of the MCC.
However the VO must also consider the needs of ratepayers who may be suffering hardship as a result of the MCC, and the need to progress all rating appeals as promptly as possible. There is therefore an expectation that planning will allow some flexibility. It is intended that the s-prog notice period will bring out any issues around s-prog planning.
The VO will usually give 2 months notice of a s-prog start date. This is to allow appellants the opportunity to consider the planned timetable, and to raise any concerns in advance of the start date.
The VO will consider adding appeals to a s-prog when the request is made in advance of the start date. For example this may be appropriate if an appellant or professional representative has only recently decided to make a proposal.
The VO will also consider constructive feedback about s-progs from interested parties e.g. if appellants consider the timing of an MCC s-prog to be premature they should contact the VO to explain their reasoning.
The VO will take account of all contributions during the notice period, and if necessary review the timing and composition of any relevant s-progs. Any changes must account for the impact on all parties (including the VO). The VO will consult where appropriate.
The intention of the notice period is to provide appellants with the chance to organise their activities to make themselves available for the discussion period. There may be occasions when this is problematic. The appellant (or their professional representative) should contact the VO promptly to discuss any deferment need. In considering any deferment requests the VO will have to take account of the capacity of the appellant to meet general programming requirements. The expectation is that a large national surveying practice should be able to meet programming plans whereas an unrepresented appellant or sole practitioner may be more likely to experience difficulties in meeting competing priorities. Requests must always provide full reasoned details to allow fair consideration. The VO will consider each request individually.
If an appellant is unable to participate in a planned s-prog it may well be that their own appeal(s) are deferred but the remainder of the plans should proceed. Deferment of a whole s-prog will be rare. Any such occurrences would require full consultation with all appellants.
The VO will also consider requests for deferment during the discussion period. The broad assumption must be that appellants (or their professional representatives) are ready and able to participate in the discussion period but appellants may encounter sudden changes in circumstances that prevent this. There may also be developments during the discussion period which make deferment is the most sensible course of action e.g. a significant Tribunal decision. The VO will consider all cases on their individual merits.
The VO must take into account the needs of all parties to the appeal process when considering deferment options, particularly when the notice period is foreshortened. Any final decision rests with the VO.