Saturday, 22 October 2016

A final update from Jim!

Just a few brief words of thanks and reflection. 

Thanks to all the association events I attended. There are so many great memories but a few things in particular stand out!

- the hospitality and customer care shown to me by the staff of the Talardy Hotel in St Asaph, when I attended the North and Mid Wales Association
- the two young guys who were Ushers at their pals wedding and reception, this was taking place at the same hotel at Haydock Park as the Lancashire & Cheshire Association dinner/dance. They appeared at breakfast some 21 hours after their Reception started still wearing their formal suits. A well deserved standing ovation took place.
- Vic Dockree's band's superb performance at the Yorkshire and District Dinner and also the time I spent the next day at real " Woolpack" at Esholt (see right).
- sitting on Dom and Steff's "goggle box sofa"
- Best Lancashire Hot Pot ever at Lancashire & Cheshire AGM
- visiting a whisky distillery in Norfolk- what is the world coming to? Nonetheless at the risk of never being allowed to return home I bought a very nice "St George" single malt.  Cheers!
-a wonderful meal with the Northern Ireland Association (see photo - right - of Chief Executive David Magor and me enjoying the Belfast hospitality)

In addition I attended Conferences in Crieff, Llandrindod Wells, Tampa, Brussels, Amsterdam and Telford. Thanks to our Institute, IAAO and TEGOVA. I cannot also let this pass given that I went on a tour of an English distillery I had a wonderful night at the Glen Turret Distillery in Crieff, also fantastic.

I experienced what it was like to be near to a hurricane, and fly just ahead of one. It's been great, met some fantastic people and had some interesting debates. Not just on professional matters but other diverse matters such as the works of Miles Davis, the Boss, the lasting impact of Punk and who was is the greatest live act ever - I will just leave that on there though ...

To close things off I had a wonderful night at Telford and seeing the innovation and high quality work being undertaken by many in our professions is very inspiring indeed.

It's been a year in which many of my entertainment heroes have died. But also a good year for Hearts a great one for Leicester and a truly memorable one for me. Thank you for all your support and I look forward to our paths crossing.

That's it from me. I wish Ian Ferguson all the joy that I have experience in my year.
Jim with his son Alexander at the 2016 IRRV Annual Conference

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Jim's Journals for October 2016

This article appears in the October 2016 'Insight' – Jim’s Journals - Insight presents a special feature commemorating yet another successful year of Presidential duties, as Jim McCafferty signs off  :

Dear reader,

So here it is - my last offering before I hand this slot over to incoming President Ian Ferguson. It has been an honour and privilege to be your President this year.    It has been really great meeting so many Institute members and hearing what they are doing.    Across all the disciplines that make up the IRRV, I have seen some great innovations and fantastic customer care in terms of service delivery. I have also eaten some fantastic meals, listened to some great music, witnessed some audacious dance moves and, let’s not deny, seen some prodigious intakes of alcohol!    I thought Scotland and the north of England had that last one in the bag until I witnessed the dedication to shown by the South Eastern Association - I was in my bed before 2.30 am and they were only warming up – 5am and some of them were still in the bar to make breakfast a few hours later … phew!

Being President was certainly not something that I envisaged when I first entered the Rates Office at Leicester City Council in November 1976.    I doubt anyone else there at that time thought any different. I try not to think back to what I looked like in 1976 as I might mourn the passing of my ginger hair - or would I? No, the real reason is that the mid 1970s was an era when great crimes were committed in the name of fashion - soft perms, Oxford bags, flares, horrible checks … I am feeling queasy just thinking about it. Thank goodness for punk!

Anyway, since my last note, what’s been going on?   Well, I have attended a number of Performance Awards Inspections, been to some shows in Edinburgh during the Festival, and attended the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) Conference in Tampa and the twin Commonwealth Heads of Valuation Agencies (CHOVA) and IRRV Scottish Conferences in Crieff. Oh yes - I have managed to do some work as well. It has been a very busy time of it.    There is too much for me to go through in detail. 

The 82nd IAAO Conference took place in Tampa at the end of August.    It was a fantastic event and I gave a joint presentation with David Magor on local taxation in the various parts of the UK and the challenges we all face.    The general approach for presentations in the UK is that questions come at the end - not so in Tampa, so that brought its own challenges!    It became clear that many tax collection problems are universal and what is clear to me is that in the USA model, the local property tax is clear and the areas on which it is spent are also very clear.    A delegate from Texas summed his view of local taxation in the UK as that we have become too concerned with the question of affordability and destroyed clarity with an overabundance of reliefs, discounts and rebates.   His view being that these should be dealt with separately outwith the property tax.    He further expounded his view was that if this is not done, the taxpayer loses sight of the purpose of the tax.  

I would say that the IAAO Conference is a “full on” event both in terms of wide ranging papers that range throughout a full working day, including working lunches but also great evening events. I heard some great covers bands, including one that put Devo’s “Whip it”, The Proclaimers “500 Miles”, A Flock of Seagulls “I Ran” and Tom Petty’s “Refugee” in the same set, doing them all justice.     I heard some great Miles Davis inspired jazz and a young duo go through a range of Americana music. All that and the good music played on radio - a little while since I heard A Tribe Called Quest’s “I left My Wallet in El Segundo” - excellent. As excellent as the music and radio was, “free” TV was tragic and anyone who has problems with “free to view” TV in the UK should realise how lucky we are.

I also have had to re-define my assessment of what torrential rain looks and feels like - thanks to Hurricane Hermine for that. Hermine also gave me an interesting flight from Tampa to New York and caused me to stay in and around JFK airport for about 40 hours longer than I anticipated! 

On my return to Scotland I read with interest a report in The Herald which commented on a letter to the Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, requesting the reversal of a business rate supplement increase. Fair enough as a request, but there is no mention of the purpose of the tax itself, or indeed the wider consequences of a tax reduction. Maybe my new Texan friend has a point - have we drifted too far away from understanding the purpose of local property taxes?

On to the Scottish Conference, which was held together with the CHOVA Conference at Crieff.  More about this in November’s Insight.  It was an enjoyable time which started with a pre-conference trip to the Glenturret whisky distillery.    This was an excellent event indeed!  
The nature of the IRRV President’s timetable is that in the last few weeks of the term there are a number of events that take place almost back to back, so if I seem a bit out of it at Telford that is my excuse.

It just remains to thank you that have read my meanderings.    I appreciate the kind comments made to me. I would like to thank all those who have supported me this year, including Claire Hall and Peter Blakey of BT Lancashire Services and my friends in Edinburgh who have kept an eye on my flat when I’ve been away.    My final comment is to wish my friend Ian Ferguson all the best in his year as President.    I know his knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm will make him a great President.


Saturday, 30 July 2016

Jim's Journals for August 2016

This article appears in the August 2016 'Insight' – Jim’s Journals

Dear reader,

Well it's been another busy few weeks and I’ve covered quite a few miles. In addition to work in Ormskirk, family commitments in Leicester and occasionally getting back home to Edinburgh, I have been to Newcastle, Llandrindod Wells, London, Thetford and Bournemouth on Presidential duties.

Although my late father may have been a long distance lorry driver I can assure you it's not in the genes (nor is abstemiousness, but that's another story). I prefer the train but sometimes that is just not possible. So my car's mileage has taken a bit of a hammering and I have been listening to a lot of music. It's great because you get to hear lots of things you had not heard before or for a very long while, as it was with "Rainy Night in Soho". The only problem is all I can remember is seeing the Pogues at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester when Shane McGowan was that much under the weather that he forgot the words to his classic "Pair of Brown Eyes" and then fell off the stage. 

I attended the Northern Counties AGM at Newcastle with David Magor where we did our grumpy old men double act on the state the profession. The event was organised by the Institute's next President, Ian Ferguson, who had added it on to his course for IRRV students. 

My next event was the Wales Conference in Llandrindod Wells, another great event, with effective sponsorship from Jacobs - all superbly organised by Islwyn Lewis-Jones. I particularly enjoyed Welsh LGA Chief Executive's presentation. A nice little touch was fitting in the Wales v England game. I watched impartially but can now say well done to Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland - and of course to eventual winners Portugal. My country, Scotland, were not invited and England, well, they just didn’t turn up. Vardy should have been on from the start and Drinkwater should have been with him (agreed – Editor!).

Talking of exits from Europe, I attended the superb Rating Surveyors’ Association Reception at the House of Lords on the day following Brexit. Much tumult outside of the Houses of Parliament - as I am sure you saw on TV.  The last time I was at there was on school trip when I was nine!

Then off to Thetford (birthplace of Thomas Paine and part of the setting for the original Dad’s Army) and the English Whisky Company at nearby Roudham.  Yes, I thought that was a joke, too!  And, yes, I did taste some English single malt whisky (it was good) and indeed I bought a bottle to add to my collection of malts.  Thanks to the East Anglian Association!   
Finally, on to the Wessex Association AGM and Mini Conference at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth.   Another enjoyable and well-run day with Institute members – thanks in particular to Helen and Lyndsey. 

Finally, I cannot sign off without congratulations to Andy Murray - the boy done good…again!


Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Famous Grouse!

The President visits the Famous Grouse Experience as part of his Presidential duties today!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Happy Christmas from the President!

Happy Christmas to everyone and I truly hope that you are not reading this any time soon. If you are - please stop.    It will wait - go and do something frivolous - enjoy yourself!

It’s just after 6pm now on Christmas Eve and I have completed all my preparations.  This is well ahead of my previous efforts.  Now it’s only the cooking left to be done.  So I think a wee glass of vino is in order.

Since my last update, my liver has taken a hammering at two Scottish events the Scottish Benefits and Welfare Reform Conference and the Scottish Association President's, Joan Hewton’s, Christmas Reception in Edinburgh.   The conference was as ever both interesting and challenging.  Challenging intellectually but also a test of stamina: who’s last in the bar and will they make it to hear speakers later that morning?     I don’t know who the last in the bar was because I’m a lightweight.   No benefits conference can go by without mention of John Cunningham so hear I go.   John is a great supporter of the Institute in Scotland.    He is always the first to ask questions of speakers and if he doesn’t agree with the answer offered he will pursue it further.   He is also a great musician who entertained us with his fine guitar playing in the bar following the Conference Dinner.

Joan’s reception was another excellent event and I thank her very much for inviting me.  

One big disappointment for me is that I missed seeing one of my heroes at Crieff; as Billy Bragg was also staying at the Hydro.  This week's Christmas music has been interspersed with some classic noise pollution "Talking with the Taxman about Poetry"; Levi Stubbs’ Tears can it get more heart rending?

Well I suppose I could drone on about the budgetary pressures facing local authorities, the revaluation in 2017, how council’s will cope with welfare reform etc. but I think we could all do with some respite from these topics for the next few days.  I am however grateful that I am not personally affected by the need to claim welfare benefits and so the only part of the above which I will think about are those less fortunate than I am over this Christmas break. 

The many disciplines that the institute covers generally have one thing in common the desire of members to work hard and do well.   For the next few days at least please take a break; think about other things.   I do accept those of you with screaming children may welcome some discourse on the revaluation.   I would instead suggest that you marvel at how well Leicester City have performed. Premiership leaders at Christmas!  And the Jambos third in the SPL, all is well in sporting world this week. 

Having got that off my chest there is now only one thing left for me to say I hope you will all have a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year when it arrives.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

December update from the President

So what did we all think on 25 November?    Well my take on matter is in line with my usual miserable outlook:  be careful what you wish for or at the very least be precise.   George Osborne's Autumn Statement appears to have delivered what local government has asked for, ad nauseam, over a very long period of time.    Local authorities will have greater control over support for the homeless and the most vulnerable.   Will they have they funding though and perhaps more crucially will the local community BE willing to pick up the tab?

Anyway on to more joyous issues since my last blog, I have been to a number of events.    I attended the Scottish Tribunals & Administrative Justice Advisory Committee (STAJAC) in Edinburgh along with my Scottish Association President, Joan Hewton and Association colleague Paula Doherty.    A very interesting event where there were presentations addressing the launch of “Mapping of Administrative Justice in Scotland” and “Making decisions fairly” reports.   Sadly, the COSLA representative was unable to attend to give a local authority perspective of the latter report.

From there it was on to Manchester on 17 November to attend and speak at the Local Authority Civil Enforcement Forum (LACEF) annual conference this year running in parallel with Collections, Debt Sale & Purchase Conference (CDSP).    A really interesting event and which ran very smoothly thanks in no small part to the organisational abilities of Freddie Dawkins of LACEF and Claire Davison of Credit.    I would wish to thank Barrie Minney the Chair of LACEF for his company and sharing some of his extensive knowledge of debt collection with me.    Barrie’s work in operating the knowledge hub is of immense use to local councils primarily in England and Wales.   Barrie tells me that it his wish to get more Scottish members and certainly there are definitely areas of best practice that can be shared regardless of borders. There was a wealth of excellent and knowledgeable speakers, even allowing for my participation and it would be unfair to pick any one speaker out; but I am going to. So thanks to Tim Savill of Coventry City Council for telling me that when Lady Godiva paraded through the streets of Coventry, in protest to high taxes her husband had set, no one was supposed to look, but one person did; his name was Tom, hence “Peeping Tom”.   I never knew that before.

There was an award night as part of the CDSP event and I was fortunate to be the guest of Alan Wood of Whyte & Co.   On the same table were Clive Jones and his team from Luton Borough Council; who were wonderful company and that was even before they became winners of the LACEF Public Sector Collections Team of the Year; well done Luton.

A quick visit home to Edinburgh where a whirlwind of washing, ironing and shoe polishing took place; as the saying goes a “man’s work is never done” and then it was off back down south.   This time it was the East Midlands Association Dinner Dance at the truly impressive Casa Hotel.   An excellent event and, an opportunity for me to catch up with friends colleagues from the time when I worked in the East Midlands.   It was attended by no less than four past national Presidents, Messrs Magor, Traynor, Chapman and Stewart (I am told my speech was hours shorter than yours of last year Kevin!).    I also met up with former colleague and fellow attendee at a Buzzcocks concert the East Midlands President, Ivan Carvath.    Despite everything I tried to teach Ivan he has done very well for himself.   Good to catch up with my old boss Alan Lemmon who as ever saw me off the at the bar; I still cannot keep up with him.

I would like to thank the East Midlands Association and in particular Andrew Solley, Association Secretary, for their hospitality and I can confirm that I have successfully repatriated the bottle of Malt that they were kind enough to present to me.

Next stop for me was the RAF Club in Piccadilly another fantastic building where I attended RICS Rating Diploma lunch.   The Rating Diploma exam certificates were presented it and proved to be a very successful time for the VOA who almost cornered the market.   Potentially a tough time ahead then for private practitioners when facing the highly trained VOA staff in the Tribunals to determine the 2017 revaluation appeals.    Which brings me to the after dinner speaker my friend and former colleague from Tribunal Service days Tony Masella, the Chief Executive of the Valuation Tribunal Service, as ever an entertaining and  amusing speaker.

Having been back to Leicester to see my Mum, son and some friends,  I indulged fully in enjoying the fantastic curries that the city has to offer.   Could be getting to be a threat to Glasgow any day soon.   In fact, Leicester was “buzzing”  -  things are definitely on the up.    Jamie Vardy scores again and I cannot get used to the term “table topping clash” when Leicester’s games are mentioned.    A real turn around for the city but what has caused it?   Well, it can only be one thing finding Richard III in a council car park!    So all you council officers feeling down trodden and in despair get your excavators out and start digging.    It worked for Leicester.

Had the great pleasure yesterday of catching up with my pal Ian Alcorn, one of Scotland’s most knowledgeable Housing Benefit practitioners.   His real skill is in knowing how to apply legislation to gain the best possible results for customers. 

So what “noise pollution” (thanks for that Anne Marie) am I listening to today?   Well it’s the disturbed genius of the late Warren Zevon, an hour or so more of “Splendid Isolation “before I head off to Crieff for the Scottish Benefits Conference.

That just leaves me to say - come on you Jambos and Foxes.
Luton BC prize winners
Barrie Minney (Lacef Chair) and Clive Jones (Revenues and Commercial Services Manager, Luton BC)
Ball room "sky" ceiling at RAF Club

Sunday, 15 November 2015

From the President - 15th November

Following the incidents in Paris I feel it is inappropriate for me to be my usual flippant self. I am sure all of our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives or been injured in Friday’s attacks.

Since my last update, I have attended two events as IRRV President and I would simply like to thank the Rating Surveyors Association together with their President Robert Brown for their hospitality on 5 November 2015.    David Magor and I were invited as guests to the RSA Annual Dinner held at the Royal Horseguards Hotel in London; a beautiful setting and a wonderful event.

On Friday I attended the annual luncheon of the the Association of Chief Estates Surveyors and Property Managers in the Public Sector (ACES) held at the City Chambers in Edinburgh.   I would like to thank ACES for their kind invitation and wish their new President Jeremy Pilgrim a successful year in office.