Reduction in VOA offices will be a 'nightmare' for businesses

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

Shambles: big concerns have been raised over the reduction in VOA offices
Shambles: big concerns have been raised over the reduction in VOA offices

Related tags Valuation office agency Appeal

The Government's plan to reduce the number of Valuation Office Agency (VOA) offices has been described as a "shambles" that will be a "nightmare for businesses wanting to appeal their business rates", according to global property consultancy business Colliers International.

By 2023 the VOA will have reduced its offices from 56 to 26, which John Webber, head of business rating at Colliers International, finds "inconceivable".

“This is a shambles,” he said.

“It’s inconceivable that at a time when the VOA has over 200,000 outstanding appeals still in the system and has introduced a new "Check, Challenge, Appeal (CCA) System, which businesses find impossible to navigate, that the Government has decided to reduce, rather than boost the number of offices and professionals that can sort out the issues.”

The new appeal system has been highly criticised by trade bodies as "unfit for purpose​", with many publican's wishing to challenge their rates​ being "left in limbo".

Swept under the carpet

"So now not only is the appeal system making it more cumbersome, if not impossible for businesses to appeal their rate bills, but there are fewer places and people to help," continued Webber.

"It’s like closing a hospital because there are too many sick people to deal with, in the hope that they’ll just go away. It doesn't solve the issue, just tries to sweep it under the carpet."

“Many businesses have been hammered in the recent business rates revaluation, with some big rate rises and, with the uncertainty caused by Brexit, additional costs of the national living wage and apprenticeship schemes and interest rate rises, it is a difficult time for many."

Remain frustrated

Commenting on the reduction in offices Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate NIcholls said: “This is a worrying development and we have concerns that any reduction in the number of offices and staff working for the Valuation Office Agency will severely restrict its ability to deal with business rates appeals in a timely and efficient way.

"Valuation for our sector requires specialist knowledge and any reduction in the VOA’s capacity to undertake this is worrying.

“Our members remain frustrated with the performance of the appeals system and we know from talking to them that about one-third of valuations are being appealed. The Government needs to ensure the VOA has sufficient resources to provide a credible service to business.”

A Valuation Office Agency spokesperson said: “We are resourced to carry out our work clearing appeals against the 2010 rating lists - the government introduced Check, Challenge, Appeal (CCA) to reform that appeals system. Seventy per cent of challenges against the 2010 rating lists resulted in no change, clogging up the appeals system, causing delay and uncertainty for businesses and local Government.  

“Our estates programme is transforming the way we use our offices to support new and more efficient ways of working. It balances affordability and geographic coverage. By consolidating in a smaller number of higher quality buildings, we will be able to support our people in adapting to a more flexible way of working, delivering our business in a more cost-effective and sustainable way."

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