John Rockliff, Senior Member of the Valuation Tribunal for England:
My first awareness of the Valuation Tribunal was in 1993 when I appealed against the council tax band on my own house. I found the process interesting and made a mental note that at some point in the future I would like to consider applying to join the Tribunal.
Seven years later when I retired early from my work as a stockbroker I applied to join. At that time the appointments process was completely different.
As an early-retired person I was looking for activities that fitted my skills and where I could make a useful contribution to society. The Valuation Tribunal (VT) met these criteria. Although I have no relevant formal qualifications, I am comfortable analysing numbers and generally find it easy to grasp legal principles – two attributes that a VT member requires.
I had some introductory training sessions before and after my first sitting as a tribunal member. After sitting as a member for a few years I became a chairman.
Whilst much has changed since I first joined the VT, the essence of the process is the same. Applying the law impartially is the first priority but also, particularly for unrepresented appellants, it’s about enabling them to present their case as well as possible, and to give an assurance that we have heard their argument and they have had a fair hearing. Often this requires careful questioning to elicit relevant information without straying into presenting the appellant’s case for them.
I often deal with appellants who start with a feeling that the whole system is geared against them, and they will not get a fair hearing. Sometimes these appellants are angry with all areas of the system and have been in dispute with their local authority or Valuation Office for some time. I always find it rewarding to change their opinion by ensuring they are getting a fair and unbiased hearing.
Since tribunal hearings have moved online I miss the real- life contact with tribunal staff and member colleagues, but the process from a judicial point of view works well remotely and is more efficient due to the avoidance of travel and waiting times.