Becoming a VT Member
What is the Valuation Tribunal?
The Valuation Tribunal for Wales (VTW) is a Welsh Government Sponsored Body that deals with appeals against Non-Domestic Rates, Council Tax and Drainage Rates. Although the money to run the Tribunal comes from Welsh Government, the Tribunal is not part of Welsh Government. It stands alone as an independent tribunal with its own staff, who are not civil servants. The staff are employed directly by the Tribunal itself.
The appeals that the VTW hears are appeals against certain actions and decisions taken by:
- the Valuation Officer (VO) [who is responsible for compiling and maintaining the Rating List];
- The Listing Officer (LO) [who is responsible for compiling and maintaining the Council Tax Valuation List]; and
- the Billing Authority (BA) [which issues demands to persons who are liable for Rates and Council Tax].
The VTW is completely independent of all the above parties.
Members of the VTW are the people who hear and determine the cases. They are local people who are volunteers. Formal qualifications are not required in order to be a member. The Tribunal seeks to appoint a range of individuals with different backgrounds, experiences and qualifications. All members are regularly trained in valuation tribunal matters. It is a requirement that members undertake this training. If they do not do so, they are debarred from sitting. Members usually sit as a panel of three members, and they are supported and advised on points of law and procedure whenever required by a clerk, who is a paid employee of the Tribunal.
The Tribunal provides a free service, so it cannot award costs against the parties to an appeal. Parties have to meet their own costs when making an appeal and when attending a tribunal hearing. The Tribunal sits at various venues throughout Wales. An increasing number of hearings are held using video technology over the internet.
What Does the Valuation Tribunal do?
Normally three members of the Tribunal sit at a hearing [although two members can hear an appeal if the parties in attendance agree]. The panel determines appeals against property valuations for Rating or Council Tax as well as people's liability for local taxes and other related matters. These can include, for example, appeals about the value of a small industrial unit or a large parade of shops, the banding of a small bungalow, or a person's eligibility for personal discounts. But it does not consider questions relating to the level of the tax or someone's entitlement to benefits or billing account matters.
How does someone become a Tribunal member?
The Tribunal reviews its membership regularly and is currently making new appointments twice yearly (on 1 April and 1 October). If new appointments are required or re-appointments due, the Tribunal will hold Appointment Panels to consider fresh applications and renewal applications. These applications are made in writing on the Tribunal's standard form. Applicants may be appointed on the basis of this application alone; although it is usual for there to be a short additional interview for new applicants.
Certain people are debarred by law from becoming tribunal members. These include undischarged bankrupts and persons who have received a prison sentence of three months or more within the last five years (even if this has been suspended).
Key qualities required of members are impartiality, objectivity, common sense and the ability to assimilate facts easily.
Although elected councillors of local authorities which issue Council Tax and Rates bills are not debarred from becoming a Tribunal member, they would not be regarded as impartial if they sat on appeal hearings connected to their local authority area. Accordingly applicants are asked if they are local authority council members. If they are and they are made a member of the Tribunal, they will not be scheduled to sit on appeals related to properties within their local authority area.
How long can a person be a Tribunal member?
Since 2017, a person is appointed as a Tribunal member for a fixed period of five years. This can be renewed once for another period of five years. After a person has served a total of 10 years, he or she cannot be appointed to the Tribunal again. Tribunal members, however, can be removed mid-term by a direction given by Welsh Ministers to the Tribunal's Appointments Panel (after due consultation with the panel). To date, this power has not been exercised by Welsh Minsters.
What is expected of Tribunal members?
At busy times members may be asked to sit once or twice a month. At quiet times this could be once every couple of months. The Tribunal's workload can vary because of cycles that apply to the revaluation of properties for Council Tax and Rating purposes. Applicants are required to give an undertaking that they will sit at least once a month. However, the current level of operation is running closer to once every two months. A tribunal meeting is scheduled to run from 10:30am to 4:00pm with a break for lunch. Most meetings however finish before 4:00pm. Nevertheless members must ensure that they can commit to devoting the whole day to a hearing whenever they sit. In addition to sittings, members are required to attend at least one training event per year.
The member's statement of undertaking forms part of the standard application form. Applicants need to be aware of what they are committing to undertake when they submit an application to become a member.
Do tribunal members get paid?
No. Membership is voluntary and the posts are unpaid. However members are entitled to reclaim their public transport expenses or the cost of their travel when using a private motor vehicle (currently 50.5p per mile for a motor car). The actual cost of meals taken when on tribunal business may also be reclaimed (up to certain maximum levels, as detailed in the Tribunal's member's expenses policy, which is issued at the time of appointment). Members who have incurred actual financial loss as a result of attending to tribunal business may also reclaim an amount equal to the loss (up to certain maximum limits). This is for people who have suffered salary, wage or income reductions with regard to the hours spent on tribunal business, or who have incurred a necessary personal financial expenditure in order to attend to the tribunal's business (such as paying a registered child-minder, who would not have been used if the member had not been on tribunal business).
What do I do if I wish to become a member?
Please use our Member Application Form to register your interest. We will then send you our full application form to complete. Please note that applications are normally considered within a month or two of receipt, and we will contact you again shortly after that. If you are successful, your appointment will formally commence on the following 1 April or 1 October, whichever is the nearer date. After an introductory meeting with our senior clerks, you will then sit as an observer at a number of tribunal hearings before being called to sit as a full member of the decision-making panel. As indicated earlier, all panels are advised by a professional clerk; and on-going training is provided for all tribunal members at least once a year.