Wednesday, 1 May 2019

May's Presidential update from Louise!

Dining in sumptuous Grade II listed accommodation and dancing to “Reach for the stars” – can a President’s life be more varied than that? 

Dear reader,

As the current month draws to an end and I prepare to lose an hour’s sleep this evening (have you worked out when I’m writing this yet?), it’s time to reflect on the activities undertaken this far. In fact, I’m now approaching the half way mark in my term of office as IRRV President. The first half has certainly flown by and with the calendar filling up fast, I’m sure the second half will pass equally as quickly. 

The month started with my own local Association Dinner – London and Home Counties. It is certainly a very different affair, set within the surroundings of the Innholders Hall in the City of London. As my tour of the country continues, I’ve quickly learned that each of the Associations plan a unique evening but it is perhaps the setting of the London and Home Counties which provides a somewhat different experience. The Innholders Hall is a Grade II listed building, featuring a beautifully preserved 17th century Old Court Room and an impressive Great Hall. The Hall is first referenced in a public assessment document dating back to1522, but I’ll stop there before I detract from Mr Watson’s tour through the ages! I’d recommend that you visit the President’s blog to see some picture of the evening, as words don’t realty do it justice.   

Of course, the evening doesn’t just happen, and my thanks go to everyone on the Executive Committee, especially Chris Grose, for organising it - and the local President, Andy Cummins, for allowing me to share in his evening. With his good lady wife being originally from Scotland, the top table represented a fair few of the Celtic nations. 

With a slight interlude, during which I represented the Institute at the Association of Accounting Technicians’ lunch, in similarly grand surroundings at the Fishmonger’s Hall in the City, it was on to the next Association Dinner. 

This time the evening was organised by the Lancashire and Cheshire Association in Haydock Park. We had a plethora of Presidents attend that dinner - with East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire represented. A warm welcome was extended by the Lancashire and Cheshire Executive and I’d again like to thank them, especially Linda Price and their President, Robin Gibbons, for a wonderful evening. In fact, I may have enjoyed their hospitality a little too much as I found myself on the dance floor accompanied by Dave Chapman and Kerry Macdermott, attempting to re-enact the tutors’ routine from the revision course when that well-known Steps song “Reach….” was played. Anyone who has attended the revision courses over the years may recall the tutors’ “entertainment”. Sadly, I didn’t manage to stay up until the bacon butties arrived at half past midnight. Organised by incoming president, Catherine Nicholson, I’m sure they were most welcome for those still networking! 

Yours, 

Louise

Louise Freeth IRRV (Hons) is President of the Institute

Monday, 1 April 2019

April's Update from the President

A strategy for the IRRV and a strategy for getting to meetings on time 
– both significant for our President!

Dear reader,

As I write this, it’s a gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon and I’ve just returned from the West Midlands Association annual dinner, held in Bromsgrove. It has been a fairly quiet start to 2019 so far, with the dinner being the first Association event to date. As always, the local Association did themselves proud with a wonderfully well organised event. I’d like to formally extend my thanks to the Association President, Neil Jinks, and the entire Executive Committee, who made the event such a success. 

However, I have to admit that things were a little fraught in the Freeth car initially as we struggled to find the hotel. I think the sat nav was having an off day, as we checked the post code several times and still ended up driving in … and then out … of the centre of Bromsgrove more than once! Luckily Kerry decided to try the map app on his phone, which took us back the way we had come for 2.5 miles. I must admit I was somewhat sceptical but, to be fair, it worked and we found the hotel, which actually couldn’t have been much easier in terms of how close it was to the motorway and indeed how far it was from the centre of Bromsgrove - where we had been initially. 

These things happen, of course, but we had carefully planned our departure in order to ensure that we arrived at the hotel in time to watch one of the most crucial matches of the 2019 Six Nations tournament – England v Wales. Sadly our plans and hopes were dashed as we arrived, flustered, with the first half well underway and the score sadly against Wales. Nervously waiting until half time to get a drink to calm the nerves, we did then manage to watch a glorious victory for Wales. Apologies to all those English supporters! 

Before we knew it, it was time to get changed and join the West Midlands Association for their dinner and official photographs. After a wonderful meal, and a few obligatory speeches, the night concluded with a disco and a casino! I was a little concerned about the latter, as my luck had probably been used up for the day with the Welsh victory! However, it turned out to be played with fake cash. Not that it helped me much though, as I didn’t do very well at all.    

In addition to attending Association dinners and other social events, the President is also responsible for chairing the national Council meetings and moving forward on any strategic issues. The first meeting of Council in 2019 was held on 28th January at HQ in High Holborn, where one agenda item dominated, i.e. responses received to the consultation on the future of the IRRV. It was heartening to see that there were 17 responses in total, some from individuals but many more from Associations representing the views of numerous members. Unlike some other consultations, we are genuinely interested in the views of our members and it was decided, after quite a lengthy discussion, that the best way to move things forward would be to have a smaller meeting with the Chief Executive, Deputy Chief Executive, President, Senior and Junior Vice Presidents, Honorary Treasurer and chairs of the standing committees. This took place on 21st February, largely by conference call, in order to keep costs to a minimum. A list of action points will be taken to the next Council meeting in April for approval, unless there is a requirement to have them approved at the forthcoming AGM. An extraordinary meeting was considered but decided against, therefore the AGM will see changes approved in Telford in October. So, watch this space!   

Yours, 

Louise
Louise Freeth IRRV (Hons) is President of the Institute

Sunday, 31 March 2019


Fast approaching the half way mark in my term of office as IRRV National President, things are certainly beginning to get a little more busy! The first half has certainly flown by and with the calendar filling up fast, I’m sure the second half will pass equally as quickly.

March started with my own local Association Dinner – London and Home Counties. It is certainly a very different affair set within the surroundings of the Innholders Hall in the City of London. As my tour of the country continues, I’ve quickly learned that each of the Associations plans a unique evening but it is perhaps the setting of the London and Home Counties which provides a somewhat different experience. The Innholders Hall is a Grade II listed building featuring a beautifully preserved 17th Century Old Court Room and an impressive Great Hall. I'm not great at taking photographs of events but luckily, others are and here is a small selection to provide a flavour of the evening. 

As you can see, a good time was had by all despite the fact that the Toastmaster decided to go home. Luckily London and Home Counties President, Andy Cummins, and I coped and I've decided that I know what I want to do if I ever leave Revenues and Benefits, although, having broken the solid oak sound block I fear my expenses could be a little high!    

 As is fitting at an Association event, Mr Cummins occupied the "big chair" flanked by myself and his good lady wife. 
My thanks must also go to Kevin McCarthy for the sterling job he did of sawing the security tag off my dress. As i may have said previously, its ok for the gentleman among you as you merely get your DJ dry cleaned and make sure you have a clean shirt. However, us ladies have other challenges including which dress to wear. A word of advice ladies, beware ordering a dress on line and simply removing the price tag before wearing. In future I will always check for any lurking security tags hiding in the hem which you may not spot until half way through the evening. With a large number of Enforcement Agents in the room you can imagine the speculation regarding whether I had indeed paid for the item! Rest assured, I had and my knight in shining armour, Mr McCarthy, saved me the embarrassment of trying to convince a shop assistant of this fact long after proof of purchase had been destroyed. Although I'm still not sure how / why Kevin developed this skill....... 



 Of course the evening doesn’t just happen and my thanks go to everyone on the Executive Committee, especially Chris Grose, for organising the evening and the local President, Andy Cummins, for allowing me to share in his evening. With his good lady wife being originally from Scotland, the top table represented a fair few of the Celtic nations.

With a slight interlude, during which I represented the Institute at the Association of Accounting Technician’s lunch in similarly grand surroundings at the Fishmonger’s Hall in the City, it was onto the next Association Dinner.

This time the evening was organised by the Lancashire and Cheshire Association in Haydock Park. We had a plethora of President’s attend that dinner with East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire represented. A warm welcome was extended by the Lancashire and Cheshire Executive and I’d again like to thank them, especially Linda Price, and their President, Robin Gibbons, for a wonderful evening. In fact I may have enjoyed their hospitality a little too much as I found myself on the dancefloor accompanied by Dave Chapman and Kerry Macdermott attempting to re-enact the tutor’s routine from the revision course when that well known Step’s song “Reach” was played. Anyone who has attended the revision courses over the years may recall the tutor’s “entertainment”. Sadly, I didn’t manage to stay up until the bacon butties arrived at half past midnight. Organised by incoming president, Catherine Nicholson, I’m sure they were most welcome by those still networking!


 



It was my pleasure to also join robin in presenting a Long Service Certificate to George Smith who celebrated 50 years of being an Institute member.

And I'll leave you with one final picture of the evening. Can you guess who these natty red and black shoes belong to? The owner will be well known to those who have previously attended IRRV events although he has now upgraded from his original black and white pair. Answers on a postcard please - sadly no prize though! 

Sunday, 10 March 2019


Well, I'm very pleased indeed to confirm that I'm not going to be serving the rest of my Presidential term on crutches as I survived my short trip to the Aosta Valley unscathed or almost unscathed............I did take a tumble on the last day but the only injury sustained was to the funsize bag of maltesers I had in my pocket. As you may be able to detect from the picture, this may have been less to do with the red run I was descending and more to do with the red wine I had with lunch. Well, it was a holiday after all and I'd like to thank fellow Council member Ian Ferguson, his good lady Karen and son Matthew for adopting me for the short break. 

But, back to the serious affair of the day job and IRRV Presidential duties.  The first of the Association dinners of 2019 was the West Midlands Association annual dinner held in Bromsgrove. As always, the local Association did themselves proud with a wonderfully well organised event. I’d like to formally extend my thanks to the Association President – Neil Jinks and the entire Exec who made the event such a success. However, I have to admit that things were a little fraught in the Freeth car initially as we struggled to find the hotel. I think the sat nav was having an off day as we checked the post code several times and still ended up driving in ………….and then out…………..of the centre of Bromsgrove more than once! Luckily Kerry decided to try the map app on his phone which took us back the way we had come for 2.5 miles. I must admit I was somewhat sceptical but, to be fair, it worked and we found the hotel which actually couldn’t have been much easier in terms of how close it was to the motorway and indeed how far it was from the centre of Bromsgrove where we had been initially. These things happen of course but we had carefully planned our departure in order to ensure that we arrived at the hotel in time to watch one of the most crucial matches of the 2019 Six Nations tournament – England V Wales. Sadly our plans and hopes were dashed as we arrived, flustered, with the first half well underway and the score sadly against Wales. Nervously waiting until half time to get a drink to calm the nerves we did then manage to watch a glorious victory for Wales. Apologies to all those English supporters!

Before we knew it, it was time to get changed and join the West Midlands association for their dinner and official photographs. After a wonderful meal, and a few obligatory speeches, the night concluded with a disco and a casino! I was a little concerned about the latter as my luck had probably been used up for the day with the Welsh victory. However, it turned out to be played with fake cash. Not that it helped me much though as I didn’t do very well at all.    

In addition to attending association dinners and other social events, the President is also responsible for chairing the national Council meetings and moving forward on any strategic issues. The first meeting of Council in 2019 was held on 28th January at HQ in High Holborn where there was one agenda item which dominated i.e. responses received to the consultation on the future of the IRRV. It was heartening to see that there were 17 responses in total, some from individuals but many more from Associations representing the views of numerous members. Unlike some other consultations, we are genuinely interested in the views of our members and it was decided, after quite a lengthy discussion, that the best way to move things forward would be to have a smaller meeting with the chief Executive, Deputy Chief Executive, President, Senior and Junior Vice Presidents, Honorary Treasurer and chairs of the standing committees. This took place on 21st February, largely by conference call in order to keep costs to a minimum. A list of action points will be taken to the next Council meeting in April for approval unless there is a requirement to have them approved at the AGM. An extraordinary meeting was considered but decided against therefore the AGM will see changes approved in Telford in October. So, watch this space!   




Sunday, 3 March 2019

Letter from the President - March 2019

Dear reader,

One of the issues with writing magazine articles is the lead-in time.  As I write this, it’s a cold January day, but by the time you read it, spring will be well on the way!  Certainly Christmas and New Year are behind us. I was very fortunate this year to spend New Year in one of my favourite countries – Italy - in the capital, Rome, not as a result of being IRRV President but as a belated “big birthday” treat. I think if I could choose to live anywhere, it would be somewhere in Italy. 

Like many people working in local government, it wasn’t a career which anyone spoke to me about and, if they had, I doubt it would have been the area of revenues and benefits which would feature high on the list. No, following my graduation in 1990, I left the UK to teach English in the Italian town of Vigevano. Situated just outside Milan, it’s famous for its Piazze Ducale and shoemaking.  Sadly, after spending the summer there, I ended up returning to the UK and the first job I got was in my local council in the days of community charge. It’s fair to say that my love affair with Italy started then and has continued since! 

But back to business, the first event of 2019 which I attended on behalf of the IRRV was the Chartered institute of Taxation lunch. Quite apt, since January is the month when many of us will be completing our self-assessment tax return! It can be a little daunting walking into a room full of strangers and “mingling” before the formal dinner but I found myself talking to delightful elderly gentlemen of 95 years young who, when he heard the word “revenues”, as in IRRV, became convinced that I worked for HMRC - his former employer. After a few attempts to correct him I decided it was probably best just to keep him company ahead of the dinner. 

During the dinner itself, I found myself sitting between a Professor of Taxation from Oxford and the President of Tax Advisors Europe, who was from Milan. The dinner itself was in the Merchant Taylors’ Hall, one of the Great Twelve Livery Companies of the City of London. Livery Companies, or Guilds as they were previously known, began in mediaeval times as fraternities which were often religious but were also there to protect the interests of particular trades. Which prompts me to remind you of the forthcoming London and Home Counties Association dinner, planned for 7th March in the Innholders Hall. As my local Association I am bound to be a little biased but it really is worthwhile attending if you are able to. 

However, between now and then there will have been further Institute business to attend to, with my second meeting of national Council to chair at the end of January. This will be when the future strategy of the Institute is discussed in light of the responses to the consultation submitted. There is also have been the West Midlands Association dinner to attend at the end of February, where I look forward to meeting some new and familiar faces. And, a short break in the Aosta Valley skiing - not sure there has ever been a President who served on crutches, so let’s hope I’m not the first! 

Yours, 

Louise

Louise Freeth IRRV (Hons) is President of the Institute  

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Letter from the President - February 2019

Dodgy landings, bingo, and of course the odd Welsh connection, Louise Freeth’s year is already full of the unexpected! 

Welcome to the second of my letters as national President. Things have become a little busier since I last sat down to write to you, both personally and professionally. You may recall that, in my last letter, I spoke of the role of the Associations as being something close to my heart. For this reason, I’d like to visit as many professional meetings and social occasions as possible during my tenure. 

Since my last missive to you I’m please to say that I have been to Chesterfield to support the East Midlands Association on the occasion of their annual dinner. It was a privilege to get to know the local President, Claire Moses, a little better and my thanks go to the whole Executive Committee for a very well organised and entertaining evening. Words won’t be able to do justice to the skills of Andrew Solley as resident bingo caller for the evening, but clearly all that experience with numbers in revenues was put to good use. So impressed was I with just how entertaining bingo can be, I even ordered a set from a well-known internet shopping site to keep the Freeth clan entertained after the Christmas meal! 

Talking of clans, it was also my pleasure to take not one but two trips to support the work of the Scottish Association recently. Initially to open the Scottish Benefits and Welfare Reform Conference in Grangemouth in November and then in December to attend the Forum Meeting and Scottish President’s reception. I have to say that I’m not a nervous flyer but the second trip did cause me to recite a few “Hail Marys” as the pilot suddenly aborted the first attempt to land, despite being directly over the runway with wheels down ready and waiting. Apparently, the approach was somewhat “unstable” - well that was the technical description for it anyway. Alarm bells should have started ringing when I saw that the plane was a very small prop job, not something you see too often at Heathrow. 

There is always a lot happening in our profession, whichever field you work in. Whether it is an official conference, professional meeting or a social occasion, the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals is invaluable. Having worked my years in revenues and benefits, whether from within local government or the private sector, I can still appreciate the challenges faced by colleagues in the rating profession. Representing the IRRV at events hosted by both the Rating Surveyors’ Association and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ Diploma Holders recently provided me with an opportunity to discuss these in more detail with their representatives. It also turned up an unknown Welsh connection – well, with a name like Tom Emlyn Jones there was a fairly good chance of the RSA President having some Welsh heritage, but it turns out his grandmother was from the same part of South Wales as myself! 

Yours, 

Louise

Louise Freeth IRRV (Hons) is President of the Institute  

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Welcome back to my President's blog and welcome to a New Year! I do hope that everyone enjoyed the festive season, not too much of course (😉) and that 2019 is kind to you. 

From a Presidential perspective, the start of 2019 is certainly slightly quieter than the end of 2018 which saw two trips to Scotland firstly for the Welfare Benefits conference in Grangemouth and then for the Scottish Forum and Scottish President's reception in Edinburgh. 

I have to say that, while the first trip was uneventful, the second certainly made up for it. I should have realised that my day wasn't going to go to plan when the pilot aborted the first attempt to land at Edinburgh airport due to an "unstable approach". Well, that's a new one on me and while I'm not ordinarily a nervous flier the fact that I was in a small propeller plane, and that we were directly above the runway before aborting and climbing rapidly, didn't do much for my nerves. 

What happened next though was entirely my own fault as I confidently arrived at Royal Scots club, not too late as it happens, only to discover that I had in fact gone to the venue for the evening reception and not the Forum meeting. I'm honestly not normally that ditsy!

However, when I did manage to get to the correct venue it was a most informative meeting with Universal Credit and its impacts as high on the agenda in Scotland as it is in other parts of the UK. 

Returning to the Royal Scots club for the evening venue, this time correctly, it was really good to catch up with Scottish practitioners on a personal level. Many of those attending were involved in the education of IRRV students either as tutors or examiners which, as you know, is an area of the Institute's work which is close to my heart. 

I haven't included any photographs here of these two events as Fraser Macpherson, the IRRV Development Manager for Scotland and NI has beaten me to it on the Institute's Facebook page. Efficient as ever Fraser and so much for me keeping a low profile!   

So, now that the festivities are over its back to the day job for many of us, myself included. January is a fairly quiet month with regard to Presidential duties although it does see the first IRRV Council round on 28th of the month. While there will be the usual standing items on the agenda, the main focus of that meeting will be to discuss feedback on the recent Consultation on the future of the Institute "Vision 2020 and Beyond" 
http://irrv.net/documents/20/files/2018/Vision%202020%20and%20Beyond%20A%20Consultation%20Document.pdf

If you haven't already responded, please do take the time to read it and provide feedback. The deadline for feedback is 11th January, but it's not too late! Unlike some of the consultations that may cross our desks, where we may feel like the deal has already been done, we really do want to hear your opinions on the future of the Institute whether you respond as an individual, as part of an Association or both.