In this section
CT Director Memo No: 01/2011
Date: 13 December 2011
CT I NDR Borderline - Delegated Authority
With the move to business streams there have been a number of enquiries regarding CT/NDR borderline cases. Following a meeting between CT and NDR technical experts on 25 November 2011, the issues surrounding referencers' and caseworkers' 'Authority to Inspect' have been clarified and guidance is provided in this memo. These instructions will be incorporated in the Council Tax and Rating Manuals.
Under Paragraph 7 of Schedule 9 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 the Valuation Officer [VO] may delegate authority to inspect hereditaments. Similar powers to delegate exist for the Listing Officer (LO) under Section 26 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992. Regulation 13 of the Valuation Tribunal for England (Council Tax and Rating Appeals) (Procedure) Regulations 2009 permit the VO and LO to appoint a representative to appear before tribunals. As a matter of pragmatism and normal Agency practice, both VOs and LOs may authorise members of their staff to sign settlement forms for and on their behalf.
Instructions found in the rating manual volumne 1 section 1 require the VO of each NDR Unit in England and Wales to maintain a spreadsheet for their Unit listing the individuals with delegated authority, including the start and expiry date. Since the move to the new VOA structure on 7 November 2011 the same approach should be adopted for CT Units and separate spreadsheet templates have been provided. This is used to generate the authority letters and to record the delegation of any VO or LO functions.
A composite is a hereditament part only of which is domestic within the same occupation [see RatingManuaIIV014/sect9.shtml#P80 1469], (for example a shop with a flat above occupied by the shopkeeper). A composite is defined in primary legislation in 5.64(8) & (9) LGFA 1988 and 5.3(3) LGFA 1992 as being both a nondomestic hereditament and a dwelling and an authority from either the VO or the LO is sufficient to undertake an inspection of the whole hereditament.
There may be occasions where the property is not a composite (for example, the shop and flat above are in separate occupations). In these circumstances, delegated authority from both the VO and the LO would be required to inspect both hereditaments.
Responsibility for deciding whether delegated authorities for both NDR and CT are appropriate for an individual rests with the VO or LO. Consideration should be given to the following:
1. Location - delegated authority for billing authorities beyond the area the individual would be expected to work in while undertaking normal duties should not be given (for example, a referencer based in St Austell should not normally have authority to inspect in Birmingham even though he/she is part of the same CT Unit).
2. Skill/Capability - a referencer with only CT experience should not be given authority to inspect NDR hereditaments.
3. Frequency/defined periods - consideration should be given to the frequency of inspections across CT/NDR and whether the requirement is for a temporary defined period. Temporary authorities should not be open-ended and an end date should be entered on the Authority Spreadsheet at the end of the defined period.
4. Abuse of powers - each case should be considered on its merits and should stand up to scrutiny from an audit or a Freedom of Information request Delegation of the same authority to all outdoor staff is not considered appropriate.
5. Separate sheets - the VO and LO spreadsheets should be maintained separately by a Business Manager [BM] within each NDR or CT Unit on behalf of the statutory officer. This should reduce the risk of abuse or error.
6. Quarterly Review - the BM should undertake a quarterly review in November, February, May and August of the spreadsheet to ensure that it is accurate, identifies authorities that have been ended and that the expired authority letters have been recovered.
7. Lost or Missing Authority Letters - where an authority has expired or is no longer needed, the letter(s) should be returned to the BM to enable him or her to update the spreadsheet. Failure to return an authority should be treated as a data security incident and should be reported to the appropriate Director within 2 working days in accordance with the instructions on reporting security incidents.
8. National Specialist Units - caseworkers from the NSU need authorities from all VOs across England and Wales. Alex Osborne in NSU Support will facilitate authority letters where appropriate.
9. Types of property - authority may be restricted to certain types of property depending on the work requirements for the individual.
10. Central List - authority to represent the Central Valuation Officer (CVO) needs to be obtained from Paul Sanderson (Director of the National Specialists Unit and the statutory CVO). Alex Osborne in NSU Support will facilitate authority letters where appropriate.
11. Audit - the NDR and CT Policy, Process and Assurance Teams will carry out an annual audit of each Unit's authority spreadsheet to ensure compliance.
An authority merely provides the power to act on behalf of the VO or the LO. When deciding whether to inspect a hereditament, how the ratepayer or taxpayer can be served in the most efficient and cost-effective way should be considered. This will include consideration of the complexity of the domestic/non-domestic borderline hereditament (for example, a hospital), the capability of the individual (is he/she trained to inspect hospitals?) and the impact (does it affect other rate/taxpayers?). The decision rests with the individual at the time, but should stand up to scrutiny and should be recorded on RSA. It is expected that in the majority of instances, especially for non-complex casework, the referencer inspecting the property (regardless of business stream) will be able to gather sufficient information to allow changes to be made to both NDR and CT Lists by the relevant team on return to the office.
If you have any queries please contact Michael Pearce or Justin Giles.