New data has revealed approximately one-third of 2017 appeals are settled by consent. The numbers are still small and it is difficult to draw conclusions, but ithey might show that the challenge stage is not working properly either because ratepayers and agents are not changing their practices to use the new system properly, or that the VOA are issuing Decision Notices prematurely before they were expected or needed.
Critical to this is the new VOA process for challenge and how it is working. AR would like to know of members experiences (both what is working and especially what is not) so this can be fed into discussions with partner organisations aimed at assembling a date set to be used to try and persuade Government to make improvements. Comments should be sent to AR’s CEO, Will McKee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The General Election
Due to the prorogation of Parliament, legislation which was either not received Royal Assent or been carried over at prorogation falls away. The following two Bills have fallen away along with others: • Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) Bill • Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill [HL]. Given cross party support is likely that these two pieces of legislation will be re-introduced, but they will start the legislative journey from scratch. It remains essential that they are properly scrutinised and AR will be monitoring the situation.
The long running issue concerning the assessment of ATMs is now set for a hearing in the UKSC (UK Supreme Court) in March 2020.
VOA Rating Manual
The VOA has recently published an update to its Rating Manual. The direction of travel is very much one way with the VOA’s proposed changes not responding to the representations made by professional bodies. There are three principal concerns: a) the draft does not address the "logically prior" question, of whether or not there is a hereditament, first, but rather as an afterthought; b) the questions in the draft address whether or not there is a property undergoing reconstruction, rather than whether or not the property is capable beneficial occupation. This is contrary to the logic of the decisions in both Monk and Jackson; and c) the continued references to the Court of Appeal judgement in Monk are not appropriate, as that judgement was not approved by the Supreme Court. All these are areas where the VOA is in the eyes of some seeking to ignore the approach of the Supreme Court. However it did not hold much say in the recent case of Jackson (VO) v Canary Wharf Group  UKUT 0136 (LC)