Sunday, 14 October 2018

Presidential handover at IRRV Annual Conference

At the IRRV Annual Conference in Telford last week, Gordon handed over IRRV presidential responsibilities to Louise Freeth, after a very busy and successful presidential year :

Monday, 1 October 2018

October 2018 – Letter from the President

Gordon Heath signs off his Presidential duties, leaving the Institute once again in good health and in good hands 

Dear reader,

August is a quiet month as far as formal IRRV duties for the President is concerned, apart from signing the examination certificates for the successful candidates.

However, the month began on a very sad note, with the funeral of John Charman, Past President of the Institute some years ago.  John was a charming man with whom both Carla-Maria and I shared a love of fine wines and good food.  However, I cannot claim to match his skills in the kitchen!  I was pleased to see that so many of his IRRV friends were there.

September brought the IRRV Scottish conference, held once again in the picturesque surroundings of the Crieff Hydro Hotel. I am grateful to Kevin Fraser and the Scottish Executive for inviting Carla-Maria and I to the conference.  I would also like to thank Fraser Macpherson for all his hard work in organising the event.  I was delighted to Chair the first session with the minister, Kate Forbes MSP, who had only just been given business rates and council tax to add to her brief.  

I have only one further conference to attend before the Institute’s Annual Conference in Telford in October that will be both the climax and the end of my Presidential year.  

People ask me if I have enjoyed my year and I can honestly say that I have.  There has been far more to do than I imagined, but it has given me an opportunity not just to appreciate the differences throughout the UK but to take a much wider international perspective.

More than ever, I see the need for modernisation.  Why are we still struggling with implementing Universal Credit?  It could and should have been so much better.  Why are we still using 1991 values for council tax? The technology and the data are there to have annual domestic revaluations to discrete values if we wanted to.  But it is business rates that keeps hitting the press.

Just as local government is becoming more dependent on business rates, the calls for it to be abolished or replaced have grown louder. It is constantly being blamed for the demise of the high street and the closure of businesses. Small fixes such as internet transaction taxes have been suggested.  Alternatively, others are simply calling for abolition.  The Liberal Democrats have been promoting Land Value Taxation but it is unclear how this would work, for example with agricultural land.  

This is against a background of the UK having the highest property taxes in the OECD.  The problems with business rates stem from an increase in rates payable compared with rent, infrequent revaluations, an opaque valuation system with a difficult appeals process and often little benefit from successful appeals. This cannot go on forever.

I was amazed to visit Northern Ireland and see the modernisation that has taken place there.  The ready availability of data linked to maps online has resulted in a low appeals rate.  I suggest that the Valuation Office Agency and the Scottish Assessors go and look at what is happening there and copy it.  They have not gone as far as automated valuation methods (AVMs) in Northern Ireland but that is starting to happen elsewhere.  AVMs may have had a bad press but with proper regression analysis of enough factors, they can be a useful valuation tool.

When I became President last October, I wanted to plan for the future of the Institute. We needed to review our organisation and develop our strategy.  I also wanted to set out what our policies are.  I do not claim credit for this, because it is a joint effort by the Institute’s Council and staff.  As a first step we have taken the opportunity to recruit two IRRV qualified staff to strengthen the organisation.  They both have a strong background in local government revenues and benefits.  The valuation side already benefits from a strong Valuers’ Association with international links to The European Group of Valuers’ Associations.

A proposal to establish a new fraud faculty is being taken forward.  Also, a consultation paper on strategy matters will shortly be given wide circulation.  The responses to this will feed into implementation of the agreed proposals.  Work is also taking place to draw up a compendium of Institute policies.

The process is not finished, but thanks to the efforts of the Council and staff we are planning for the future. 



Gordon Heath BSc IRRV (Hons) is President of the Institute

Sunday, 2 September 2018

September 2018 – Letter from the President

Dear reader,

While June brought our annual week at Le Mans, July also brought several other car related events in between my IRRV duties.  July began with the IRRV Golf competition at Maxstoke Golf Club.  Not being a golfer, my activity was largely confined to the 19th hole.  I congratulate Bob Trahern for organising such a splendid event.  Both the number of teams taking part and the number of sponsors was truly impressive.  There were teams from almost every Association of the Institute.  While golf is hardly a core activity of the IRRV, it was good to see so many members from all over the UK brought together to enjoy a social event.

The following weekend Carla-Maria and I were at Silverstone for an exciting British Grand Prix, with a narrow win for Ferrari.  We already have seats for next year. A few days later, we were at the Goodwood Road and Racing Club Summer Ball, held in the splendid surroundings of the Duke of Richmond’s home, Goodwood House.

Back to IRRV activities and we were very pleased to have been invited to the South Eastern Association dinner at the Tudor Park Hotel in Kent. Our thanks go to Patrick Knight, Zoe Kent and the rest of the Executive Committee for putting on a splendid event and to Rundles for their very generous sponsorship.  Carla-Maria particularly appreciated the delightful bouquet of flowers.

The following week brought the July round of national Council meetings.  I was delighted to see that two IRRV qualified people with considerable experience, Kerry Macdermott and Sue Williams-Lee, are now working in senior roles within the Institute.  With our existing senior staff, we now have a strong team going forward to meet the many challenges that lie ahead.  

Unfortunately, the Policy and Resources Committee noted that income was falling below budget in the current year, which highlighted the need to develop additional sources of income.  A proposal to establish a new Faculty will be taken forward.  Also, a draft consultation paper on strategy matters was considered and the final version will be given wide circulation.  The responses will feed into a report later this year, following which implementation of the proposals will take place.  Work is also taking place in the Law and Research Committee to draw up a compendium of Institute policies.

As Commercial Services Committee welcomed Kerry Macdermott as the new Head of Commercial Services, work is well under way on the arrangements for the Annual Conference and Performance Awards. Reports of activities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were also received. Education and Membership Committee welcomed Sue Williams-Lee as the New Head of Educational Services.  Suggestions were made on expanding the Institute’s draft consultation paper to discuss further the Institute’s examination and qualifications structure.

Looking back since I became President last October, the Institute’s Council has made significant progress with strategy development and an internal reorganisation. We still have much to do to set out our policies, but we are planning for the future.

Next up was the Silverstone Classic, after which I actually found some time to do some paid work!



Gordon Heath BSc IRRV (Hons) is President of the Institute

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

August 2018 – Letter from the President

The President’s love for motor sport finds its place in the middle of his busy IRRV schedule!

Dear reader,

Carla-Maria and I always look forward to June and our annual week in Le Mans for the 24-hour race for sports cars.  As we don’t do camping, hotel accommodation has to be booked at least a year in advance and grandstand tickets purchased in October.  Hence this event was booked in my diary before becoming President.  Also, June brought my mother’s 94th birthday a week after Le Mans, so a visit to Norfolk was also fixed in my diary!

My IRRV activities in June began with the parliamentary reception of the Chartered Institute of Taxation in the Terrace Pavilion of the House of Commons.  About 150 people attended, including 19 MPs and peers and I was very pleased to have been invited to represent the Institute.

Next up was a breakfast meeting of the IRRV Performance Awards Panel to discuss this year’s entries, followed by the IRRV Past Presidents’ Lunch.  I was pleased that so many of my predecessors joined us in such convivial surroundings.

After returning from Le Mans, we were straight off to Belfast to bestow honorary membership of the IRRV on Brian McClure, in recognition of his enormous contribution to the Institute over so many years. The next day I was pleased to visit Alan Brontë, Director of Valuation, Land and Property Services, Northern Ireland and IRRV Council member. He generously gave up most of the morning to explain the developments and modernisation in valuation in Northern Ireland.  I was particularly taken with the ability to search for property values on maps available online and with up to date images.

Back to England and off the next day to Snetterton for the IRRV East Anglian Association AGM, where David Magor and I gave a joint presentation. My congratulations go to the newly elected East Anglian President, Adrian Mills, and my thanks go to the Executive Committee for choosing a motor racing venue!

After the weekend in Norfolk, Carla-Maria and I went back to London to give a joint presentation on rates avoidance to the London and Home Counties Association. The next day was at the Local Government Association (LGA) for a meeting of the joint LGA/MHCLG System Design Working Group.

My final event in June was the IRRV Wessex Association AGM, in the impressive surroundings of Highcliffe Castle, Christchurch.  David Magor and I gave a repeat of our joint presentation, which was well received.  My thanks go to Lyndsey Sparrow and the Executive Committee for inviting us to their AGM.



Gordon Heath BSc IRRV (Hons) is President of the Institute

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

July 2018 – Letter from the President

Gordon's travels show no signs of abating as summer approaches

Dear reader,

May began with the postponed joint lunch of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) and Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) in Edinburgh.  I was pleased to be seated with a Member of the Scottish Parliament and to discuss current Scottish issues.

This was followed by a welcome break in my Presidential duties before a brief visit to Leeds for the first day of the IRRV Spring Conference, bringing together the former Welfare Benefits and Enforcement Conferences. I gave my presentation on tax avoidance before visiting the exhibition to be photographed on every exhibition stand.

The next day, Carla-Maria and I were preparing to head off to Estoril in Portugal for the European Valuation Conference and the Spring General Assembly of The European Group of Valuers’ Associations (TEGoVA). This now comprises 74 valuers’ associations from 37 countries, including the three latest new members.

The Assembly reminded me of the United Nations, with everyone seated behind a plaque showing their national flag and organisation.  On this occasion the IRRV held the proxy for the Russian Society of Appraisers (RSA) and hence we were sitting behind both the UK and Russian flags.  Fortunately there were no controversial votes!

Automated Valuation Methods (AVMs) remain very topical with the launch of TEGoVA’s publication, ”Assessing the Accuracy of Values of Individual Properties Estimated by Automated Valuation Models”, by Professor George Matysiak. The IRRV Council’s Roger Messenger gave a well-received presentation on “The Fallacy of the Tick-Box Bank Valuation Reports”.

David Magor, with our partner from Ireland, Patrick Davitt (IPAV), reported on the completion of the Erasmus plus project, “Resources for European Valuation Standards in Europe” (REVASE), providing training material to complement TEGoVA’s “blue book” on European Valuation Standards.

The IRRV will be paid for the work on REVASE from European Union funding under the Erasmus plus programme for education, training, youth and sport.  Erasmus is probably best known for enabling young people to study abroad. The IRRV is bidding for two more projects, but our access to EU funding after “Brexit” must be in doubt.  For the IRRV this will have budget implications.

Back in London, the next day I was pleased to have been invited by the Chartered Institute of Taxation to an address by the Rt. Hon. Nicky Morgan MP, Chair of the House of Commons Treasury Committee.  It was a fascinating account of the work and powers of the Select Committee and interesting to hear that it is more powerful when no party has an overall majority in the Commons.



Gordon Heath BSc IRRV (Hons) is President of the Institute

Saturday, 2 June 2018

June 2018 – Letter from the President

Dear reader,

Immediately after Easter, Carla-Maria and I were off to Prague for the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) 2018 Research Symposium.  The IAAO is based in the USA and the focus of the 2018 event was “on the issues surrounding data in the development of valuation estimates and the challenges data brings to government officials across the world.”

I was able to minimise the cost to the IRRV by “volunteering” to present a paper.  My subject was “The Need for a Good Appeals Process”.  Unfortunately, the English experience of reducing business rate valuation appeals by making the process difficult through Check, Challenge and Appeal is an example of exactly what not to do!  It has completely missed the point that appeals are reduced by making the valuation process transparent.

Other papers presented illustrated how data and technology can be harnessed to present fair valuation assessments where the basis of the calculations are made readily accessible. I believe that we could use such techniques within council tax, to have regular, even annual revaluations to discrete capital values.  However, business rates would be more difficult to achieve but not impossible.  We just need some vision, leadership and a willingness to embrace the future.

Back home and the rest of April enabled me to visit the West Midlands, North and Mid Wales, Lancashire and Cheshire and the East Midlands IRRV Associations for their respective AGMs.  It was a pleasure to attend all of these events and my thanks go to the Presidents and Executive Committees for inviting me and making me so welcome. 

I am always pleased to have the opportunity to meet local members and the members of the Association Executive Committees who put in so much work, often over many years, to keep their respective Associations active. It was therefore a particular pleasure to present Alan Lemmon with his IRRV Long Service award, in recognition of his 35 years’ service to the East Midlands Association.

April also brought the IRRV Thames Valley dinner dance, in the delightful surroundings of Highfield Park. Sarah Kingston and the Executive Committee made Carla-Maria and I most welcome and a very jolly time was had by all that evening!

Finally, I must mention the IRRV National Council meeting on 23rd April.  We are making progress on our future strategy and setting out the policies of the Institute.  On a personal note, one small change that I have made is to no longer wear the full Chain of Office for national Council meetings.  This followed a short discussion at the January meeting where I came to the view that if a Council member does not know who the President is, then they probably should not be there!  The Chain of Office should be used on formal occasions when entertaining Institute guests or attending Association events and I am proud to wear it on such occasions.



Gordon Heath BSc IRRV (Hons) is President of the Institute

Thursday, 3 May 2018

May 2018 – Letter from the President

Friends old and new take precedence this month, as Gordon Heath’s tour of duty is well under way :

Dear reader,

It is an important part of the IRRV President’s duties to represent and promote a positive image of the Institute at every opportunity, both to our members and to other organisations.  I welcome this opportunity - even if March was rather full of events.

A brief visit to Scotland on 2nd March was cancelled because the snow brought all the transport to a halt.  Fortunately, my next event was the IRRV London and Home Counties Association Dinner, which is my home Association.  Once again the event was held in the splendid surroundings of the Innholders’ Livery Hall.  I congratulate the organiser, Chris Grose, for arranging such a splendid menu with matching wines. And once again the Chef, Herbert Berger, who has won Michelin stars three times, really excelled himself.  I recommend this event to all IRRV members and I am grateful to the Executive Committee for their invitation.

The following week, David Magor and I enjoyed the Association of Accounting Technicians annual lunch at the Clothworkers’ Hall. The following evening, I was at Lord’s Cricket Ground for the annual dinner of the Society of London Treasurers, where I was pleased to be seated with three people that I knew.

The next morning was the start of another late wintery weekend, as we drove to Haydock for the IRRV Lancashire and Cheshire Association dinner dance.  It was of course well worth the drive and I was pleased to see a large turnout for the event.  It is always a pleasure to visit the Lancashire and Cheshire Association, because they are a very lively and active Association.  My thanks go to their President, Julie Smethurst, and her Executive Committee, for inviting Carla-Maria and I to their event.  It was also a very nice touch to leave such a splendid bunch of flowers in our room.

The following week brought three more events, starting with the Association of Taxation Technicians President’s reception in the Churchill War Rooms.  It is a really interesting place to visit, although there is not much time after meeting friends both old and new and the brief speeches.

Next day was lunch at the Lansdowne Club for Past Presidents and Honorary Members of the Rating Surveyors’ Association, and I of course fall into the latter category. 

Finally, on Friday of that week I was hosting the IRRV Presidents’ Lunch at the Goring Hotel in London.  I am pleased that we had a good response, with Presidents from many professional bodies and other organisations attending.  I was pleased to receive a gift of a framed photograph of myself and my wife taken at a previous TEGoVA conference, from Brian Dempsey of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers in Ireland. I now recognise and have started to get to know the Presidents of many of the related professional bodies!  I was also pleased to welcome Mr Justice Holgate, President of the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber), Gary Garland, President of the Valuation Tribunal for England and Councillor Sue Baxter, Chairman of the National Association of Local Councils, to name a few.



Gordon Heath BSc IRRV (Hons) is President of the Institute

Presidential handover at IRRV Annual Conference

At the IRRV Annual Conference in Telford last week, Gordon handed over IRRV presidential responsibilities to Louise Freeth, after a very bu...