Minutes of Meeting of the Highland and Western Isles Valuation Joint Board held in Committee Room 1, Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness, on Thursday 22 April 2010 at 11.00 a.m.
Representing The Highland Council
Mrs H Carmichael
Mr L Fraser
Mr J McGillivray
Mr S Black
Ms M Smith
Mr P Cairns
Mr J Gray
Representing Western Isles Council
Mr M Macleod
Officials in attendance:
Mr B Gillies, Depute Assessor and Electoral Registration Officer
Mr A Bernard, Treasurer’s Office
Ms P Tate, Senior Audit Manager, Audit Scotland
Ms A Macrae, Clerk’s Office
Mrs H Carmichael in the Chair
1. Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Mr R Rowantree of the Highland Council and Mr K Murray of the Western Isles Council.
2. Minutes of Meeting of 6 January 2010
There had been circulated and APPROVED the Minutes of the Board Meeting of 6 January 2010, subject to the sixth line of paragraph one of Item 3 ‘Revenue Budget Monitoring Statement 2009/10’ being amended to read £0.069.
3. Revenue Budget Monitoring Statement 2009/10
There was circulated, for noting, Report No VAL4-10 comprising a statement and commentary by the Assessor and Electoral Registration Officer on Revenue Expenditure and Income for the period to 28 February 2010. The report showed actual net expenditure of £2.239m, as against anticipated expenditure for the period of £2.412m, and an anticipated underspend of £0.097m. The main savings related to an underspend on staffing costs, principally the post of Assistant Assessor being vacant for part of the year, and also due to a recent planned retirement, along with small savings on travel and subsistence and other staff costs, and savings on property costs.
Following discussion the Board NOTED the report.
4. Annual Audit Plan
There was circulated Report No VAL5-10 by Audit Scotland setting out the 2009/10 Annual Audit Plan for the Highland and Western Isles Joint Valuation Board, and advising that planned work in 2009/10 included an audit of the financial statements and a review and assessment of the Joint Board’s governance arrangements in a number of key areas.
The Senior Audit Manager confirmed that the key issues to be addressed by the audit were delivery of an internal audit plan, implementation of single status and equal pay, progress with equality activities, and the adoption of IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards).
Responding to a question regarding the progress being made with the adoption of IFRS in comparison with other authorities and any difficulties which were being experienced, it was confirmed that the Council was mid placed in terms of progress with other authorities, and that the process was not yet at the stage where it was subject to audit to identify any issues.
The Board AGREED to note the Annual Audit Plan for 2009/10.
5. Gender Equality Scheme - Review
Members were advised that under the provisions of the Equalities Act 2006, the Board was required to undertake a review of its Gender Equality Scheme by the end of June 2010. It was confirmed that as the Board did not meet again until 31 August 2010, Members were asked to delegate powers to the Clerk to prepare and publish a report by that date, in consultation with the Convener and Vice Convener.
Members were advised that it was the intention to combine the different equalities schemes into one single scheme, and accordingly the Equal Equalities Commission had been asked as to whether they required individual schemes to be brought forward, or whether they were content for a combined scheme to be submitted as intended.
The Committee AGREED to note this item meantime pending confirmation of the outcome on whether a combined equalities scheme would be brought forward to the Board.
6. Departmental Report
There was circulated Report No VAL6-10 by the Assessor and Electoral Registration Officer setting out the current position of the main activities of the Department to January 2010 in relation to electoral, rating, council tax and staffing activities. It was noted that with the revaluation process approaching their conclusion, it was hoped to turn to the array of administrative matters requiring attention including a review of the governance arrangements and various policies which would benefit from review and updating, and that it was hoped to bring proposals on this matter to the next meeting of the Board.
The Departmental report also recommended, for the reasons outlined, that that instead of recruiting a Principal Valuer to the vacant post at Dingwall, two Senior Valuer posts be created, based at Dingwall and Inverness, to be filled internally, and that an additional basic grade Valuer be recruited externally. The Senior Valuer posts would be graded on spinal points 41 – 44 (£34,458 - £37,074), and the Valuer post would be graded spinal points 33 – 40 (£27,897 - £33,594).
Responding to questions from Members, the Depute Assessor and Electoral Registration Officer outlined the different methods of calculating the rateable values for hotels, houses in multiple occupation, public sector properties, and wind farm developments. In regard to public sector properties, it was reported that the rateable value was based on the construction costs, and the return on the investment the landlord would expect if the property was rented. The rateable value was therefore calculated using the Statutory Decapitation Rate, which was set by the Government.
Members questioned whether in view of the recession, business sufficiency was taken into account in the re-evaluation of hotels. It was confirmed that if a hotel was affected by the economic downturn caused by the recession, an appeal could be submitted in respect of the premises on the grounds of a change in material circumstances. It was explained that the appeals process was complex, and as yet untested in Scotland.
Members also referred to the fact that the temporary huts erected by contractors were rateable, and expressed concern that in the interests of fairness, this should be applied equitably across the Board’s area, given that there were many cases where contractors were not paying rates for these buildings.
The Depute Assessor and Electoral Registration Officer confirmed that contractors huts and containers were rateable and explained that constraints in resources made it difficult for staff to identify all cases where buildings of this nature had been erected, particularly in the remoter areas, and that this was compounded by their temporary nature. To achieve greater coverage would require the commitment of additional resources. However he gave an assurance that the Department would seek to redouble its efforts on this matter.
Following further discussion the Board also noted that local Members had an important role in notifying the Department of the existence of these types of buildings.
The Board NOTED the report, and APPROVED the creation of two posts of Senior Valuer, graded on spinal points 41 – 44 (£34,458 - £37,074), and one post of Valuer, graded on spinal points 33 – 40 (£27,897 - £33,594), on the basis set out in the report.
7. Date of Next Meeting
The Board NOTED that the next meeting would be held in Stornoway on Tuesday 31 August 2010.
The meeting closed at Noon.