Revaluation delay will waste millions, warn professionals

Revaluation delay will waste millions, warn professionals

Professional staff in the Valuation Office Agency have condemned the government’s decision to postpone the revaluation of council tax.

"This is flip-flop policy-making of the worst kind," said Geraldine O’Connell, National Secretary for Prospect, which represents 1,000 surveyors and valuers in the VOA.

"A huge amount of work on revaluation has already been done at taxpayers’ expense. This will now be wasted, leaving the VOA to manage the aftermath."

Staff in the VOA have been told that revaluation has been postponed at least until 2010, and that all work on revaluation must stop by September 30. Notice of cessation of employment has been issued to about 350 fixed-term contract staff taken on by VOA to handle revaluation.

"That still leaves more than 1,000 staff in regional offices across the UK who don’t have a clue what they will be doing next," said O’Connell. "Many have been working full-time on revaluation for the past 18 months and will have to shelve everything they have done. Much of the data so far assembled will be out of date in five years time so if the tax stays, the whole process will have to start all over again and at further cost to the taxpayer.

"Of course, council tax is unpopular, but that is how local government is financed today. For council tax to have any credibility it must be based on up-to-date property values. Using values that are 15 years old destroys its fairness – essential for the acceptability of any tax."

The total budget allocated to council tax revaluation is £140m, of which it is believed half is already spent. Sixty per cent of the work involved has been completed, including setting up all the databases for revaluation. The outstanding task that remains to be done is the revaluation of individual houses, most of which was due to be completed by March 2006.

The current revaluation exercise is being carried out in 73 VOA offices in England, by up to 200 qualified surveyors leading the project, assisted by technical data processing and other support staff. All recruitment of professional surveyors to the agency has been stopped, and it is feared that VOA’s graduate recruitment programme for 2006 may be cancelled.