A NEW PRESIDENT….AT THE VTE
It’s not just the United States that has a new President entering office. The Lord Chancellor, the Right Honourable Elizabeth Truss MP, has appointed Gary John Richard Garland as the new President of the Valuation Tribunal for England, replacing Professor Graham Zellick, who retired as the first VTE President in August 2015.
Mr Garland, aged 58, was called to the Bar in 1989, served as an Asylum Support Adjudicator between 2001 and 2003 and has sat at the magistrates’ court where he served as a Deputy District Judge (Magistrates’ Court) from 2005. He will be based in London and will serve as President for a term of four years until September 2020 on a salaried part-time working basis of 60%.
The President oversees the running of the Valuation Tribunal system and is responsible for issuing Practice Directions on the conduct of proceedings. The President also hears cases involving important points of law.
A new appointment process for new lay panel members of valuation tribunals began from 6 October 2016, concentrating upon the Midlands, the North West and South West of England. This follows the withdrawal of paid lower tier tribunal judges from VTE panels in the summer. This was a response to the very small number of appeals by low income taxpayers on local council tax reduction schemes which were reaching the tribunal. Overall the numbers had fallen far below the 14 000 appeals predicted by the Government in 2014. After initial training and sitting with more experienced panel members the new panel members should begin hearing cases in 2017.
The lack of reduction-related appeals undoubtedly reflects the complexity and technicalities of local schemes (which replaced council tax benefit in 2013) which are a major challenge for many advisers and puts appealing simply beyond the majority of would-be claimants without specialist legal support. Yet the VTE provides the only effective route of challenge to adverse decisions and its workload is likely to increase over winter 2016/2017 in respect of other decisions with a shrinking tax base.