PICA-Service chair Rodger Vickers hits back over accusations of bias

Related tags Rent review

Vickers: "I have not acted for any pub companies in rent review cases becoming effective over the past five years"
Vickers: "I have not acted for any pub companies in rent review cases becoming effective over the past five years"
Rodger Vickers, chairman of the panel of the Pubs Independent Conciliation and Arbitration Service (PICA-Service) has written an open letter to the trade in response to doubts raised in some quarters about his independence.

Last year MPs Greg Mulholland and Adrian Bailey criticised Vickers' appointment to the panel, as it was perceived that Vickers is Punch Tavern's surveyor. However, Vickers says he has acted on behalf of both licensees and pubcos in rent review disputes.

The letter is as follows:

To whom it may concern,
It is now a year since I was appointed chair of PICA-Service. But, having reviewed the recent industry submissions to the Business, Innovation & Skills Committee (BISC), it’s clear that one or two people still have some wild ideas about me, and my role.

It was never my intention to address the outlandish assertions made about me by a very vocal minority since last January, but a campaign by a few individuals is in danger of discrediting what is an increasingly powerful arbiter of the relationship between tenants and pub-owning companies. Indeed, what swung it was when I became aware that some of the mud thrown had actually been quoted by one back-bench MP, as fact.

Therefore, if you will excuse the indulgence, I would like to use this opportunity to set out a few facts, explain a bit more about me and my role — and also to address head-on, some of the myths.

Before working as an advisor to the Pubs Independent Rent Review Scheme (PIRRS) board, I had absolutely no prior involvement with the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers or Guild of Master Victuallers. I had lectured at a series of road shows for the BII (British Institute of Innkeeping) and had a relatively strong relationship with the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations (FLVA); I had spoken at its conferences and had co-written various publications with their highly-respected former chief executive Tony Payne. I was recipient of the FLVA’s Certificate of Merit in respect of the work I had carried out for the tenanted industry.

In the same way that I do not have any connections with the BBPA, neither do I have any strong connections with any pub companies or pub company directors. While over the past 40-odd years I have come to know many people within the industry, there is no-one other than the licensees of my two ‘locals’, the aforementioned Tony Payne and a certain Nigel Williams, who was until a couple of weeks ago president of the FLVA, who could claim to be friends.

I have not acted for any pub companies in rent review cases becoming effective over the past five years. However, in that time I have acted on behalf of a number of tenants in rent review cases against pub companies. Details of the cases I have been involved in are freely available on the PIRRS website.

I am both a chartered surveyor and a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. I am debarred by the rules and regulations of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (and by my professional insurance) from dealing with anything other than work where I stand as arbitrator, independent expert or expert witness. I do not undertake licensed property valuations, sales or lettings. These activities, like being appointed to the PICA-Service chair or its panel, are subject to stringent conflict of interest tests.

Arbitration is a quasi-judicial process: I either receive written evidence or chair tribunals before issuing my award (decision). In cases of independent expert determinations, the parties put their case to me and I arrive at my decision. Expert witness work may concern preparing an expert report to put before an arbitrator or independent expert, but usually relates to providing a view to a judge or court — it is the duty of the expert to help the court.

An expert must be impartial and must not stray from the duties of an expert witness. I believe that individuals such as myself have a duty to give expert evidence. Such instructions usually emanate from solicitors and expert witnesses must not distinguish between solicitors representing landlords or those representing tenants.

As you can probably gather, I could write a book. However, as chair of a tribunal formed at the request of Government, I do not intend to become involved in further correspondence or indeed participate in the lively online forums or blogs.

I would urge anyone interested in further information to visit the PIRRS website.​ I believe that the PIRRS board has reiterated its open invitation for members of BISC to observe future PICA-Service hearings.
Yours sincerely
Rodger Vickers

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