Achievement of business objectives and key performance indicators in 2016-17

The VTS business plan outlines the vision and objectives for the organisation. The Board and the sponsor team receive a performance report quarterly at meetings. This report is aligned to our objectives and details our performances in each of the key strategic areas, namely:

  • support the VTE in providing independent, open, fair and impartial hearings;
  • drive continuous improvement of performance and efficiency across all aspects of our organisation;
  • enhance the quality and consistency of our service to all stakeholders;
  • work in partnership with our sponsor Department to support their policy development;
  • build capacity and capability in our staff, learning from their experience and from their feedback;

Of 17 objectives set 12 were fully achieved. The table below shows the achievements towards these. The five that are ‘ongoing’ or completed in part carry forward to 2017-18:

Support the VTE in providing independent, open, fair and impartial hearings

Objective Actions planned Timescale Output/benefit Met? Achievements
Gain a better indication of cases actually requiring a hearing and avoid nugatory administration in case managing and hearing appeals Achieve an enhanced process, working with the Valuation Tribunal for England by end of Q3 More effective service to business rates appellants/ representatives; improved use of staff and VTE member resource; speedier clearance of appeals Yes We implemented a pilot to trial a new disclosure and exchange process under a VTE Standard Direction for rating appeals in Kent and Leicestershire billing authority areas. A cohort of VTE chairmen were trained on this new process which was launched in July 2016. We used a third party to survey users and after evaluating the results and feedback, the process has now been introduced for 2010 list appeals from 1 April 2017
Maximise the efficiencies resulting from increased electronic appeal submission and management Assess the potential for a paperless hearing environment by end of Q4 More seamless process for tribunal users; resource savings; better data security for parties’ information Ongoing Development has taken place on a number of IT improvements (a new appeals management system for introduction and extension of our use of SharePoint during the summer of 2017). We are also introducing tablets in to the hearing environment in June 2017 to reduce paper at hearings
Achieve a much leaner ’journey’ for tribunal users, recognising that VTE decisions may have major financial consequences on businesses and home owners Work with the new President of the VTE to review the current practice statements and current processes by end of Q3 Better communication of what the Tribunal expects of appellants in preparing and presenting their case; greater user satisfaction; fewer postponements Yes n consultation with the VTE President we have reviewed all the practice statements and standard directions previously in place and condensed them into a simplified, consolidated practice statement, effective from 1 April 2017

Drive continuous improvement of performance and efficiency across all aspects of our organisation

Objective Actions planned Timescale Output/benefit Met? Achievements
Refresh our website and its contents to provide user-friendly advice and information to our users Moving the website to a secure server and a more flexible content management system. Review of all content and signposting by end of Q1 Clearer guidance for appellants resulting in fewer phone queries; more appeals submitted electronically; easier content maintenance by VTS staff Yes We refreshed our current website and commissioned a website user survey in November 2016 which showed that nearly 80% were satisfied with their visit to the website, finding all they were looking for. The content was again thoroughly reviewed to reflect the changing processes from 1 April 2017
Revamp our performance appraisal system for staff to remove bureaucratic processes yet achieve greater engagement from individuals Performance appraisal system in place to be reviewed. This was an action that received support from the staff survey in 2015. by end of Q2 More employee engagement in the process; more effective communication between staff and line managers; simpler administration Yes New forms have been developed that will provide a more interactive process (based on self-assessment) that will better engage staff in assessing performance for yearly reviews. These will be used as part of 2017-18 reviews and the new process will be evaluated with staff
Deliver an appropriate IT platform for appeals management that meets the government’s digital services programme Obtain the necessary approvals (DCLG, Board, Cabinet Office); engage with an IT partner to design and build an off the shelf system for the Tribunal’s needs by end of Q4 More control of a proportionate system than has been possible under the HMRC/VOA contract; develop a flexible system that meets our changing needs and stakeholders’ requirements Ongoing Using the Crown Commercial Services procurement process, we procured an IT partner to develop an out of the box solution for the management of appeals received under the Check, Challenge and Appeal process introduced by government. This will be in operation by August 2017

Enhance the quality and consistency of our service to all stakeholders

Objective Actions planned Timescale Output/benefit Met? Achievements
Revamp our customer survey to better understand tribunal user’s appeal journey New market research company to be engaged; questionnaire to be redrawn by end of Q2 Clearer analysis of what the survey findings mean and what we can do to address issues Yes A new research partner has been engaged via the Crown Commercial Services’ framework. Changes were made to questions previously asked to more clearly distinguish the VTS from the VOA and councils. This has provided better analysis of findings leading to action plans
Achieve Plain English Campaign (PEC) accreditation in the guidance we offer as an administration Review the guidance on our website and in booklets by end of Q4 Clearer guidance and decisions for appellants resulting in fewer phone queries; improved customer satisfaction In part Website and printed guidance has been reviewed and redrafted using plain English and tools such as readability statistics’ and Flesch-Kincaid Grade level. The next step is to try to achieve PEC crystal marks on simplified, consolidated guidance

Work in partnership with our sponsor Department to support their policy development

Objective Actions planned Timescale Output/benefit Met? Achievements
Focus on Ministers’ aims in delivering NDR appeal reform Contribute to working groups and feedback on draft regulations; design an appeals management system and fees management system to fit the requirements of the reforms by end of Q3 Smooth implementation of the regulatory process for tribunal users Ongoing Participated in a DCLG working group to develop both appeal and procedural regulations in readiness for 1 April 2017. Developed a system that will meet the requirements of Check, Challenge and Appeal and the introduction of fees. Introduced a new listing process to assist in moving cases forward and avoiding delays with 2010 rating list appeals
Agree appropriate listing volumes Discussions with DCLG and the VOA following analysis of the findings of the pilot exercise by end of Q1 Ability to plan workload - staff and VTE member resource Yes Agreed with DCLG and the VOA listing volumes of 150,000 cases in 2016-17 (exceeded)
Be responsive to funding demands Review of budgets, particularly at quarterly intervals by end of Q4 Identification of underspends early on, to release to DCLG Yes Implemented financial improvements so that we can be more responsive to funding demands. This has involved making more use of the current SAP finance system

Build capacity and capability in our staff, learning from their experience and from their feedback

Objective Actions planned Timescale Output/benefit Met? Achievements
Introduce training grades to encourage staff progression between roles Introduce new training grades by end of Q1 Encourage staff progression between roles; more reliance on existing staff to move up to new roles at a time when external recruitment has proved difficult Yes Training grades have been introduced and 2 people applied to go on this career progression path; regrettably, one decided not to pursue. We will continue to run programmes as and when required to build in-house skills
Establish minimum standards to be attained by staff and maintained by CPD Monitor CPD at annual reviews by end of Q1 Encourage staff to keep up to date on development changes in the rating world Yes Minimum 20 hours’ CPD was introduced as part of requirements for professional staff who deal with appeals. Other staff are members of different professions and they maintain their CPD within that profession
Develop new role descriptions to encourage greater flexibility in staff Develop new role descriptions by end of Q2 Encourage greater flexibility in staff Yes Job descriptions have been revised for new entrants to introduce greater flexibility of workforce, particularly for technical staff to make them more tribunal facing

Operate with financial and organisational initiative and efficiency

Objective Actions Planned Timescale Output/benefit Met? Achievements
Retender contracts, specifically IT contracts, in order to deliver year on year cost savings Retender contracts, specifically IT contracts, in order to deliver year on year savings by end of Q4 Deliver year on year cost savings In Part Contracts coming up for renewal have been retendered and this has contributed in financial savings. A novated contract on a Direct Award with HMRC has been concluded and an exit strategy will be formed to move away entirely from this arrangement. Further contracts will be reviewed as and when they expire
Develop more efficient financial and budgetary processes which best meet user requirements Review financial tools in place. by end of Q3 Maintain accurate financial reporting systems that meet sponsoring department requirements Yes SAP has been identified as the appropriate financial reporting tool. We have developed better processes that integrate more fully with SAP requirements and have developed more efficient reporting tools
Review ways of reducing costs without dropping organisational flexibility and responsiveness in meeting targets Look at what costs may be reduced by end of Q2 Meet the demands of reduced funding to ensure our operational activity is catered for Yes We have reviewed our major contracts and our KPIs to ensure that we remain as flexible as we can on driving forward improvements and remaining cost effective. This is an ongoing review in light of reduced funding