Valuation Office Agency
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (January 2015)|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2015)|
The Agency values properties for the purpose of Council Tax and for non-domestic rates in England and Wales (in Scotland this function is performed by the Scottish Assessors). This work is undertaken on behalf of the Department for Communities and Local Government in England, and the Welsh Assembly Government in Wales.
The Agency also provides additional valuation services to HM Revenue and Customs through its District Valuer Services business stream. This includes property valuations for the purpose of assessing taxes, such as capital gains and inheritance tax. District Valuer Services also provide a wide range of valuation services to the public sector, such as asset valuations for resource accounting and compulsory purchase advice on the purchase and sale of property, specialist building surveying advice, and valuation of mineral bearing property, landfill sites and plant and machinery.
Since April 2008 following a restructure, District Valuer Services has been divided into National and Central Services, who look after the Agency's statutory services to HMRC, and Commercial Services who provide commercial property valuation services to the public sector. The restructuring of the commercial side of the business has been particularly significant as senior managers are now responsible for customer facing sectors of work - such as health or transport and infrastructure - rather than regions, creating a more flexible and responsive service.
The predecessors of the Valuation Office Agency were the separate Valuation Office organisations in England and Wales (established in 1910) and in Scotland (established in 1911). The Valuation Office Agency was created as a merger of these two and became a Next Steps Agency of the Inland Revenue on 30 September 1991.
The VOA employs 3,990 people (full-time equivalent) in 86 offices. It is the largest single employer of Chartered Surveyors in the UK. The current Chief Executive is Penny Ciniewicz appointed in September 2009.
The Finance Act of 1910 introduced a new land value tax on that part of the capital appreciation of a property which followed from the expenditure of public money on communal development such as roads or other public services.
In order to apply this tax it was necessary to value all property in the UK and the Inland Revenue set up the Valuation Office to carry out this task. This led to the Valuation Office Survey (1910-1915). 
The VO soon began to receive requests from other Government Departments for valuation assistance a task which it continues to undertake today. It was this other government work that lead to the VO's retention after the 1910 land value tax was abolished in the 1920s.
During the following years the VO took on some major tasks such in 1931 which saw a further proposed tax on land values and from 1939 to 1945 when it valued property destroyed by enemy action in the UK during the Second World War.
In 1950 the role of the VO was expanded when it took over responsibility for the valuation of property in England and Wales for rating purposes. Prior to this year it had been the task of each local authority to compile and maintain its own rating list but this had led to inconsistencies in valuations. When in 1948 a new system of Government equalisation grants to Local Authorities was introduced uniformity in rating valuation was essential and this could only be provided by a central organisation such as the VO.
It was not feasible to absorb the extra rating staff and work into the 100 existing VO offices so a separate network of 268 new offices were opened with the majority of their staff being transferred from local authorities.
Each local office was headed by a District Valuer responsible for all of the rating and revenue work within the geographical responsibility of his office. There were regional offices each headed by a Superintending Valuer who was responsible for the general management of the District Valuers within his region and liaison between the local offices and the Chief Valuer's Office in London.
Over the years the number of offices has reduced as the rating and other functions of the VO were combined into so called "integrated" offices and the network was slimmed down as the number of local offices were closed and by 1996 there were only 93.
Staffing numbers have varied in accordance with the workload peaking in the years around the times of rating revaluations when it was necessary to increase staff to carry the revaluation and to settle appeals arising from it. So in 1965 there were around 7,000 compared to 2,600 prior to 1950. By 1994/5 there were 4,775 permanent staff.
In 1998 the VO underwent a large scale re-organisation which saw a large reduction in the size of the regional layer of management and the closure of Regional offices. The District Valuer post in the local office was abolished and there was a reorganisation of the local offices into 24 Groups each headed by a Group Valuation Officer. A number of regionally based Specialist Rating Units were set up to take over responsibility from the local offices for the more complex or higher value non-domestic rating assessments. As part of this re-organisation further offices were closed leaving a total of 85.
Rating system revaluations have taken place irregularly. The first was due in 1952 but was postponed until 1956 where unusually the residential rateable assessments were based on 1939 values. The next due in 1961 was postponed until 1963 due to difficulties in valuing houses and the 1973 revaluation took place 5 years after it was originally scheduled.
The next revaluation should have been in 1982 but was again postponed until 1990. This revaluation was purely for commercial property as domestic rating had been abolished. Since then there has been a five yearly cycle of commercial revaluations, however, on 18 October 2012 the Government introduced a new Growth and Structure Bill into the House of Commons which included measures to postpone the next business rates revaluation in England from 2015 to 2017.
In 1993 domestic rating returned in the form of the Council Tax where a residential property's sale price, rather than it letting value, is the basis for assessment. It was intended to have a domestic revaluation in England in 2007 but following the domestic revaluation in Wales, where over a third of households saw a banding increase, it was decided to postpone the revaluation of England. The current government announced on the 24 September 2010 there will be no revaluation of council tax bands in England during this Parliament. In another announcement on 4 December 2010 the Department for Communities and Local Government said the revaluation of the Welsh Council Tax bands, pencilled in for 2015, would not now go ahead, and decisions over any future re-valuations should be taken in Cardiff Bay.
The Rent Service
The Rent Service (TRS) was a government agency providing a rental valuation service to local authorities in England supplying them with a range of valuations to assist them in settling claims for housing benefit from claimants living in privately rented housing. Valuations were provided for landlords and tenants for fair rent registrations made under Section 70 of the 1977 Rent Acts (amended by the 1988 Housing Act) and assisting Local Authorities with Housing Renovation Grant applications.
The introduction of the new Local Housing Allowance for new claimants in April 2008 had a significant impact on the Rent Service. It was expected that by 2011 its workload would be approximately 75% lower than the level in 2007-8. The residual functions of the The Rent Service were transferred from the Department for Work and Pensions to the Valuation Office Agency on 1 April 2009.
Working More Efficiently
In November 2007 chief executive, Andrew Hudson announced to staff a series of measures to improve its service to customers and take account of a reduction in the level of government funding. The plans include more centralisation of routine processing functions; better management of data; a reduction in the space the Agency occupies through digitisation of records; and, the introduction of more flexible ways of working for staff supported by enhanced technology. 
As part of this package, the VOA planned to reduce the office space it occupies, relocating the VOA's London headquarters and closing its offices in Chester, Stockport and Washington - a former TRS office - in 2009. Further offices were to be considered for downsizing, relocation or closure. The 3,990 staff were to be reduced to 3,500 by 2011.
In February 2009 Andrew Hudson was named as the next managing director of the public services and growth directorate in HM Treasury. His replacement at the VOA was Penny Ciniewicz, who had joined the Civil Service in 1997 and since then has worked in the Department of Trade and Industry in the Cabinet Office. Prior to joining the VOA, she was Director, Knowledge, Analysis and Intelligence in HMRC.
Ciniewicz has brought across a number of staff from HMRC to assist her with her current plan known as VOA 2015. VOA 2015 is a continuation of the search for cost savings by staff reductions (staff numbers reduced by 300 in the year 2009-10), introduction of new technology and office closures. The plan took into account the additional 20% cost cuts required by the government. Having already closed the Basingstoke office in April 2011 the CEO then announced in March and May closure of the VOA offices at Alnwick, Aylesbury, Bedford, Derby, Grimsby, Harrogate, Kidderminster, Swindon and Tunbridge Wells. These offices were to be shut by March 2012. In the years ahead further local offices were to be closed, reducing to around 55-60 offices compared to the 82 offices at 31 March 2010.
The CEO was also to abolish the 'group' structure and its associated Group Valuation Officer, organising staff by function into business streams rather than by location. The senior management structure was also to be revised.
- The Valuation Office Agency Annual Report and Accounts 2007-2008
- 2005 HM Revenue and Customs Framework document for the Valuation Office Agency
- Valuation Office Agency Press Notice, 19 November 2007