Rate payers suffering from “heavy-handed and under-handed” Valuation Office Agency

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David Cureton of NG Chartered Surveyors

A Nottingham business rates specialist has reacted with anger after being given less than 24 hours’ notice to lodge any online rating appeals for his clients.

David Cureton of NG Chartered Surveyors was advised by email on Wednesday evening (29th March) that the Valuation Office Agency, the body which gives the government valuations and property advice, would be closing its online service from midday on 30th March, so that it can “make improvements to the service ahead of launching the new business rates appeals system on 1 April”.

The email added: “If you would like to propose a change, or appeal your 2010 rateable value, you can download the PDF form and email it to us by 23:59 on 31 March 2017.”

The VOA says that the appeals system is being clogged up by claims that are not upheld, which causes delay and uncertainty for business and local government.

However, David says this sudden closure of its online appeals process will only make things worse.

He said: “With an evening and two clear days to get all the remaining 2010 appeals served on the Valuation Office by 31 March I get the bombshell of an email from the Rating Surveyors Association at 5.08pm on 29 March to telling all their members the Valuation Office Agency have put an announcement on its website stating that the online service will be unavailable after midday on Thursday 30 March. To say the air was blue is a complete understatement.

“I realise that it would be difficult for the VOA to tell all the rating agents about this in good time as they would not have the emails and contact details in a form to contact people. However, I had a generic email from the Valuation Office Agency on Tuesday telling me about all the hurdles my clients and I have got to jump through to initiate an appeal in the 2017 rating list. Forgive me being so cynical but I worked through the night on 29 March and was up again at 6am today to ensure I have served all of the appeals.”

David says that at the National Rating Day in May 2016 Andrew Edwards of the Policy & Strategy Committee at the VOA spoke about the proposed new rating system.

David continues: “His first words were: ‘We don’t want appeals and that is why the system is changing’. It’s obvious that they don’t want appeals and are making life difficult in the last few days of the 2010 Rating List.

“I am going to make an appointment with the MP where I work, Ken Clarke, and also in my home constituency, Robert Jenrick, asking how civil servants within HMRC and the VOA can be both heavy handed and also under handed in the way they are treating ratepayers.”

The VOA says it’s online appeals website will be up and running on 1 April. However, David added: “The reason it’s going down is to ensure the new system is up and running on 1 April, which, of course, is a non-working day! It’s a farce.”