It’s safe to say that Wilks Head & Eve (WHE) have been in existence prior to many of the Local Authority clients we have come to serve today, celebrating 200 years of trading this year. It all began back in 1820 when the George Head & Co company was formed and acted as an independent partnership of chartered surveyors and town planners against the backdrop of the industrial revolution.
How does a company survive over 200 years?
Roll forward to present day and we have a company which has continued to evolve, adapt and embrace transformation. How have we managed to last the distance when so many others have fallen by the wayside? Our Senior Partner Roger Messenger comments “we’ve had to be smart and agile, moving beyond simply valuing and surveying property we have adapted to advise Billing Authorities on business rates issues and revenue maximisation. We help Authorities better manage budgets and balance books by ensuring we have one of the most accurate forecasting services for rates retention available on the market today. We’ve also developed an invaluable rate finder service, available at a fraction of the cost of our closest competitors. This, alongside investment in technology and good data sources is how we continue to thrive and grow. Public sector bodies have had to react to the changing requirements of International Financial Reporting standards requiring annual revaluation of their assets and an audit process. WHE has successfully evolved their service to Local Authorities to be a market leader in this area of expertise which is in addition to and also compliments our Business Rates work.”
Formation of the first Valuation Offices in the early 20th Century
The last two hundred years has certainly seen significant change in the industry, in fact it was only in 1910 when the first Valuation Office organisations were formed in England and Wales followed by Scotland in 1911. This set the scene for the first ever valuation survey of all property in the UK which was conducted between 1910 and 1915 a huge undertaking at the time bearing in mind the lack of technology and professional resource back then.
Most significant period of change
When asked about the most significant period of change in the last 60 years Roger comments “it has to be the General Rate Act of 1967 – a huge project involving the codification of 100 years of case law and the subsequent Local Government Finance Act in 1988 which saw the consolidation of all the property tax legislation much of which is still being refined in the High Courts today.”
The introduction of National Non-Domestic rates in England and Wales in 1990 was what really marked the start of a tremendous growth period for Wilks Head & Eve however, with the company taking on a large number of Local Authority clients. The formation of the Valuation Office Agency in its current form in 1991 led to the consolidation of the England, Scotland and Wales Valuation Offices and helped fuel further growth of the company.
Engaging with expert industry consultants
Senior Vice President of the IRRV and Revenues and Benefits consultant – Alistair Townsend has since started working with Wilks Head & Eve and comments “Having worked closely with the WHE team for the last couple of years, I can see why they have lasted and thrived for so long. For me personally, having been a public servant for most of my career, it has been really rewarding to help develop and then deliver a service to Local Government that really works well for them and adds value that they would struggle to replicate themselves. Supporting Local Government is really important to me and so adding such value to the sector matters a great deal.”
The introduction of business rates retention in 2013 has helped further cement the success of the company and with input from independent experts like Alistair has led to the design and roll out of a service which helps Billing Authorities maximise revenue in this area.
When asked about what the future holds Roger notes that “Business Rates have been an incredibly successful form of taxation and it would take a brave person to abolish it. There would need to be a vision to replace it, many practitioners today still remember the community charge (poll tax) and the fallout from getting it so wrong. Having said that there is always pressure from various groups and organisations to reform or drop business rates and this pressure shows no sign of abating. I believe we will see some short term, non-radical changes coming through post-Brexit but nobody really knows. We are in the midst of another fundamental Government review. Undoubtedly at the core of the criticism is now the level of the tax levied and the administration of the ability to challenge assessments.
We shall see, but with change in whatever form will come the need to adapt and provide advice to clients on any changes imposed. WHE stand ready to try and make any new arrangements work and to minimise the imposition of change on our clients.”