Simplification of business rates appeal process

Star Pubs & Bars is calling for better resourcing of the Valuation Office Agency and a simplification of the business rates appeal process when changes come into force in October. Analysis of 500 of its appeals reveal the average time taken to settle an appeal is two years two months and the maximum to be four years.

16% of Star Pubs & Bars appeal delays were compounded by postponement and rescheduling of appeals by the Valuation Office.

Star Pubs & Bars believes delays could be worse for other licensees as it was one of the first to review its pubs’ ratings assessments when the Rating List came out in April 2010 and therefore has only 1% of its original appeals outstanding, whereas some operators still have 25% unresolved.

Nearly half of appeals made by Star Pubs & Bars’ chartered surveyors, Gerald Eve, were successful, resulting in average savings of £2,500 per year for lessees whilst one sixth cut lessees’ bills by over £10,000 a year.

Says Star Pubs & Bars Trading Director, Chris Jowsey, “These are considerable sums of money, especially where the charges date back over a number of years, money that could have been invested back into businesses to grow and develop them for the future. In a difficult economic climate, when licensees are doing all they can to reduce their overheads, it is unacceptable that so much of their money is tied up with their local Councils and for rebates to take so long. Changes to the appeals process are especially vital given the increasing length of time between rates revaluations.”

Comments Charles Wilford from rating experts Gerald Eve, “Appeal negotiations require a two way dialogue. There is an increasing trend for the Valuation Office to play their cards close to their chest, often refusing to show their hand or provide information they are relying upon until they are on the steps of the Tribunal.

“Furthermore, where licensees have suffered declining trade for genuine valuation reasons, all too often the response from the Valuation Office is to simply blame the recession, relying too heavily on desk-based, computer generated answers rather than getting out to see for themselves – the response: ‘the computer says no’ but without the reasons behind this, it’s simply not acceptable.

“For licensees acting alone this can be a hugely frustrating experience, with red tape and strict time deadlines providing further complications and an unnecessary diversion from running their pub - engaging with a rating specialist is probably more important than ever.”


Case study: Nelsons Cheese & Ale House, Blandford Forum

Under the Star Pubs & Bars business rates appeals service, Gerald Eve has just secured a reduction in rateable value on Nelsons Cheese & Ale House in Blandford Forum from £49,500 to £30,000 backdated to 2010 on the basis that the pub had historically been overtrading relative to others in the town. The reduction will slash the pub’s rates bill by £10,000 a year.