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Government faces embarrassment over 'unworkable' business rates appeals system

The Valuation Office Agency is facing potential embarrassment over the new system for appealing business rates decisions, as its own figures reveal almost 90pc of users are dissatisfied with the process.

A Freedom of Information request made to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) by consultant Colliers International found that of 847 respondents to a survey completed at the end of an appeal application, 72pc were “very dissatisfied” and 17pc were “dissatisfied”.

The figures are the first indication that the new system, which came into force on April 1, is proving confusing and frustrating for property owners - something experts had warned before it came into use.

In March, cross-bench peer John Lytton told the House of Lords that the new Check, Challenge,

Appeal system involved "the most torturous" registration and had been designed to "prevent appeals".

Of 118 different comments from ratepayers on how the system could be improved which the VOA had also collected there were calls for greater simplicity and clarity, as well as information on previous valuations which would help with the process of appealing.

Respondents also complained that the search system did not work properly, that it was too slow, and said parts of the website were missing or not working.

John Webber, head of rating at Colliers International, said: “The Government ignored the advice of rating experts when it introduced Check, Challenge, Appeal - which we said was unworkable at the time - and despite our criticisms, rolled on ahead regardless.”

He added that there are about 300,000 outstanding appeals still in the system.

Colliers has joined forces with a number of other private sector ratings experts and surveyors to encourage businesses to lobby their MPs to get the systems improved.

Calls to improve the business rates system came as the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said the “sky high” charges are contributing to the 21 pubs which call last orders for the final time each week in the UK.

"Taxes now make up more than a third of the cost of a pub pint,” said Colin Valentine, Camra's chairman. “Despite the fact that pubs currently account for 0.5pc of turnover of the UK economy, they are still paying 2.8pc of the business rates.

"This is frankly unsustainable, and it is the consumer that will ultimately pay the price - whether it's when their beloved local closes down or when the price of their pint goes up.

"It's clear that most of us believe that pubs need our help and recognise the vital role that they play in local communities. Business rate relief is urgently needed in order to ensure their continued survival."

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