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Local Government Act 2003

Sections 105 and 106 (and Schedules 4 and 5): Valuation Tribunal Service


303.Valuation Tribunals (VTs) are independent bodies established under Schedule 11 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988, although they have existed in one form or another since 1948. Their purpose is to hear appeals against rating, council tax valuations and liability. There are 56 Tribunals in England, served by 25 administrative offices, grouped into 14 regional units with around 160 staff.

304.Tribunals are organised broadly on a county or metropolitan area basis. Members are appointed jointly by local authorities and presidents of local VTs. Each VT may appoint a clerk and other employees and maintain a permanent office, although some VTs maintain joint offices and appoint the same clerk and staff. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister undertakes a range of administrative functions on behalf of the VTs, including accommodation, pay and technical finance matters.

305.A quinquennial Financial Management and Policy Review of the VTs in 1999 recommended that their administration should be brought together in a regional structure and that a management board supported by a small national office should provide central direction. The purpose of this provision is to implement that recommendation.

Section 105: The Valuation Tribunal Service

306.Section 105 establishes a new non-departmental public body, the Valuation Tribunal Service. The Service has power to carry out administrative functions for the VTs in England only, including accommodation, staffing (including clerks), information technology, equipment and training needs. The Service also has power to give general advice about procedure in relation to proceedings before tribunals in England.

307.The Service is under a general duty in carrying out its functions to do what, in its opinion, is best to secure the efficient and independent operation of VTs in England.

308.The Secretary of State may provide guidance to the Service about the carrying-out of its functions. Following consultation with the Service, he may also provide directions for the purpose of securing the effectiveness of the Service in carrying out its functions. Once issued, the Service will be required to comply with any directions and have due regard to any guidance in carrying out its functions.

309.The Service will be required to consult with the valuation tribunals about the carrying out of its functions to ensure consistency and best practice.

Schedule 4: The Valuation Tribunal Service

310.Schedule 4 makes further provision in relation to the Service.

311.The Secretary of State will appoint between six and ten members to form the Service. At any time, the majority of members of the Service must be presidents or chairmen of the VTs. The rest of the Service need not be presidents or chairmen of VTs but must have suitable qualifications or experience. The Secretary of State will appoint a Chairman and a Deputy.

Disqualification from membership of the Service

312.A person will be disqualified from being appointed to the Service or from remaining a member of the Service if he is an employee of the Service or is married to one, he is subject to a Bankruptcy Restrictions Order in England or Wales, he is an undischarged bankrupt in Northern Ireland or Scotland or he has been convicted of an offence in the last five years and sentenced to imprisonment for three months or more. Bankruptcy restrictions orders will be made under Schedule 4A to the Insolvency Act 1986 (inserted by Schedule 20 to the Enterprise Act 2002). Under section 268 of the Enterprise Act 2002, the Secretary of State may by order amend pre-8th November 2002 legislation that imposes bankruptcy-related disqualifications. Orders under that section may remove disqualifications or extend them to, or replace them with disqualifications of, persons subject to bankruptcy restrictions orders, and may also provide for disqualifications to be applied at a specified person’s discretion. Although paragraph 2(1)(c) of Schedule 4 (disqualification of bankrupts in Northern Ireland or Scotland) will not be pre-8th November 2002 legislation, paragraph 25 of Schedule 4 provides for it to be treated as though it were such legislation for the purposes of section 268. So an order under that section will be able to modify paragraph 2(1)(c) should bankruptcy restrictions orders, or a similar regime, be introduced in Northern Ireland or Scotland. An order modifying the identified disqualifications in paragraph 2(1)(c) of Schedule 4 cannot make those disqualifications applicable at the discretion of a specified person and will be subject to the negative resolution procedure.

313.Appointments must not exceed three years but a member may be re-appointed. The member may resign at any time. The chairman or deputy chairman of the Service will cease to hold that office if he ceases to be a member of the Service. A member of the Service who falls foul of one of the prescribed disqualification events will automatically cease to be a member. A member of the Service who was appointed by the Secretary of State as one of the majority of members who was a president or chairman of a VT will cease to be member of the Service if he ceases to be a president or chairman of a VT. Furthermore, where a member fails to attend Service meetings without reasonable excuse over a continuous period of three months, his appointment will cease.

314.The Secretary of State may also terminate a member's appointment where he is unfit or unable to carry out his functions.

315.The Secretary of State will have the power to re-appoint a person a member of the Service, provided he did not cease to be a member because he was disqualified by reason of conflict of interest, or in connection with his bankruptcy, he was convicted of an offence and received a sentence of imprisonment of three months or more, or he was absent from meetings for the prescribed period.

316.The Secretary of State will determine how much remuneration members should receive from the Service. The Service has power, if so required by the Secretary of State, to pay pensions to members and former members, or to establish pension schemes for such people. The Service, if so required by the Secretary of State, will make compensation payments to a member leaving the Service.

Staff of the Service

317.The Service will have a Chief Executive. The first Chief Executive will be appointed by the Secretary of State in consultation with the chairman or chairman designate of the Service. Future Chief Executive appointments will be made by the Service subject to consent from the Secretary of State.

318.The Service can appoint such other staff and pay remuneration and allowances to its staff, as it thinks appropriate. The Service will determine how much remuneration such staff should receive, subject to the Secretary of State’s consent.

319.The Service can set up a pension scheme and pay pensions for the staff of the Service. However, VT employees (for example, clerks to VTs) are eligible to join the Local Government Pension Scheme. It is envisaged that Service employees (including the Chief Executive) will also be eligible to join this scheme.

320.Currently all staff are locally employed by the valuation tribunal they work for. The new body will become the employer of all staff. Where the Service proposes to appoint a clerk for a VT, it must obtain the consent of the VT before it may do so.

Committees of the Service

321.The Service has the general power to delegate performance of its functions to committees and its employees, by specific written authorisation. Committees will be able to delegate their functions to their sub-committees and Service employees, and sub-committees will be able to delegate their functions to Service employees. Non-Service members will be allowed to sit on committees so that specialist expertise may be utilised in appropriate cases. The Service may pay such remuneration and allowances as the Secretary of State may determine, to members of committees and sub-committees who are neither members nor employees of the Service.

Interests of members of the Service

322.A member who has an interest in any matter that is brought up for consideration at a meeting of the Service, committee or sub-committee must disclose his interest to the meeting. His interest will be minuted and that member shall not take part in the deliberation or decision regarding that matter. The member can give a general notification that he has an interest in a company, firm or other organisation. If he takes reasonable steps to ensure that his interest is notified in a notice which is read and considered at the meeting, he does not need to attend the meeting in person. The Secretary of State has power to allow the member to take part in considering matters in which the member has an interest subject to such conditions as he considers appropriate.

The Service’s finances

323.The Secretary of State may pay grants and loans as he thinks fit to cover the expenses incurred by the Service in performance of its duties. However, the Service will not be able to borrow money from any other source without the consent of the Secretary of State.

324.The Service will be subject to the normal provisions applying to public bodies in relation to the keeping of proper accounts, the role of the Comptroller and Auditor General, and the presentation to Parliament of reports at the end of the financial year.

Section 106 and Schedule 5: Transfer to Service of property, rights and liabilities

325.As a result of the establishment of the Service, there will be a need to make a formal transfer of property, rights and liabilities from its sponsoring Department (who currently own many of the assets used by the administration offices which support the Valuation Tribunals), and from individual valuation tribunals, to the Valuation Tribunal Service. This means that all tribunal offices and associated assets and the associated contractual liabilities arising from them will need to be formally transferred via a transfer scheme or schemes. It is envisaged that this will take place on the day the provisions establishing the Service comes into force. More detail about transfer schemes is given by Schedule 5.

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