Saturday, 17 December 2016

President at Scottish Forum & Christmas Reception

The President addressed the IRRV Scottish Revenues & Benefits Forum in Edinburgh on Thursday 15th December and later attended the IRRV Scottish Association President's Christmas Reception.

Here's two photographs from the day :
The President addresses the Forum meeting in Edinburgh
The President and Scottish Association President Joan Hewton present Cara Lawson
of Fife Council her certificate following her success in the IRRV examinations

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Scottish Benefits and Welfare Reform Conference

The President chaired the first day of an excellent Scottish Benefits and Welfare Reform Conference today.    More details here.

A couple of photographs from today :
The President chairing a conference session
Ian at Scottish Benefits and Welfare Reform Conference

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Miscellaneous Income Conference - Scotland

Ian addressed the Miscellaneous Income Conference for Scotland in Grangemouth on 1st December.

Here's a couple of photos!
Ian speaking to the conference delegates
Ian with IRRV Junior Vice President Louise Freeth, who also addressed the conference

Saturday, 5 November 2016

President's log!

A sneak preview of the first "President’s log" of Ian's Presidential Year - with thanks to the IRRV monthly "Insight."   Read more in the December 2016 "Insight"!

Dear reader,

Welcome to my first contribution to Insight as President. My first duty is to congratulate my good friend Jim on his successful year and I only hope I can follow his enthusiasm and hard work in my year in office.

But phew, what a week!  It started off quietly enough with a Friday night at the blues club which is held in our village every couple of months or so. We have some great artists and Friday was no exception with the excellent Gerry Jablonski headlining. This and real ale at £2 per pint - what more could you ask for on a Friday night!

Then things began pick up apace. I travelled down to Telford on the train with a rail company whom I will not name - they are not my favourite and once again a lack of service and punctuality was on show.  Once I arrived at Telford I made my way to the conference centre to meet Gary Watson. It is my responsibility, as chair of Commercial Services Committee, along with Gary, to make sure all goes well at the conference.  Tuesday morning saw Gary and I meet early with the Chief Executive and President to discuss the days events and make sure all eventualities were covered

I then went on to open the conference.  The day went well and it was good to see the exhibition area sold out.  Wednesday saw the arrival of more delegates and the conference had a real buzz about it. I must at this point say thank you to the sponsors, exhibitors and of course the delegates for an excellent event and also take this opportunity to record my thanks to all those who work behind the scenes to make sure all goes well.  The guys and gals who build the stands, the staff from the centre and most of all the staff from HQ who work so hard before during and after the conference to ensure all goes well. 

Of course the highlight was the awards dinner and again I must congratulate all the finalists on their initiatives and hard work.  At the end of the dinner it was a very proud moment for both myself and my family who were in attendance when Jim handed me the chain of office.  

My first duty as President was to attend the Association Representatives’ meeting on Thursday morning.  Then the drive home, clearing my case of dirty laundry, some clean clothes and off to Dublin the following day for the IPAV/TEGoVA Assembly.  I really enjoyed the event, meeting representatives from so many countries, including Latvia, Spain, Montenegro, USA, Canada, Italy, France and more.

Another early start on Sunday to catch my plane home, and the week finished as it had begun with music and a trip to the Gateshead Sage, a really excellent venue, to see an old favourite of mine - Heaven 17.  Driving home at the end of an exciting but tiring week I had the music playing with the best of Joy Division.  As I pulled up on the drive, I realised the track playing was “Disorder”, not a sign of things to come, I hope!



Thursday, 20 October 2016

Ian Ferguson - our new President!

Last night, Ian Ferguson became the new President of the Institute of Revenues, Rating & Valuation.

Over his Presidential Year, Ian will be keeping IRRV members regularly updated about his activities for the Institute as President in his blog updates - so do check out for all Ian's updates between now and October 2017!

Here's a photo of Ian with his wife and son take last night just before the IRRV Annual Conference and Performance Awards Annual Dinner and Presidential Handover :

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A welcome from Ian!

From Ian Ferguson, IRRV President 2016-17 :

Ian was, until recently, Head of Revenues and Benefits at Durham County Council. He was Divisional Head of Revenues and Benefits at Derwentside District Council before the creation of Durham County Council. 

Prior to this he held a number of roles at Nuneaton and Bedworth Council and previously held various roles with four other councils. Ian was elected onto the IRRV Council in 2008 already being a co-opted member of the Local Taxation Faculty Board. Ian has been an active member of the Institute speaking at various association meetings and conferences including the annual national conference. 

He is a past president of the West Midlands Association. He is currently both secretary and education liaison officer for the northern counties association. He has tutored in the subjects of Revenues Administration, Council Tax Law. Non Domestic Rating Law and Benefits Administration at certificate, previously technician level and Revenues Administration at Level 2. 

He has taught at both Dudley and Catterick courses as well as the pre exam revision course at Caerleon and Keele university. He has also written articles for the Insight magazine and HB Direct. 

He became IRRV President in October 2016.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Looking forward to a year in office

From Insight - October 2016 :

A proud Teessider with almost four decades of service in local government, Ian Ferguson is the next President of the IRRV.   His mission is to promote education and membership during his year of office. Lester Dinnie reports : 

As a youngster who started work with his Stockton-on-Tees local authority in 1975 at the tender age of 16, Ian Ferguson soon discovered that more education was the key to success.

His early experience of the then Rating and Valuation Association examinations convinced him that the standards, fellowship and practical advantages of membership were going to play a major part in his career.

Studying via distance learning in the pre-digital age was not, of course, quite the efficient process that it is today. However, when Barry Smith took him on at Chester City Council in 1980 he was able to undertake a course of study at Preston Polytechnic. This was the real kick-start to his future and to a number of lifelong friendships along the way, meeting and being influenced by the likes of Gil Young, Allen Shaw, Peter Fairhurst and Alf Alker, some of whom went on to become Presidents of the IRRV themselves.

It was at the Lancashire and Cheshire branch of the IRRV that he met a certain Mr J C Roberts, another President-in-the-making, who was destined to become a regular room-mate at Annual Conferences in the heady days of room-sharing at seaside B and Bs. Readers of Insight will, no doubt, judge whether this was, for Ian, a series of inspirational interludes or merely a valuable exercise in dealing with life’s challenges. Whatever the conclusions, according to Ian much was done by discussion into the early hours on how to put the world to rights.

Together these two ‘young guns’ would regularly invite themselves to conference drinks reception, no doubt in pursuit of professional networking rather than free alcohol. These days the two are still regularly in touch with Ian as a contributor of articles for Insight magazine.

The Lancashire and Cheshire branch has been a rich source of camaraderie and professional support for Ian over the years, notably from Linda Price, Ann Sizer (Penn), Ray Dart and Richard Mason.

As a sports fan from the Teesside area it’s no surprise to find that Ian is a lifelong Middlesbrough supporter, now a family tradition with his 16-year-old son following him as a season ticket holder. Ian is still a regular at ‘Boro’s’ home games, these days in the magnificent environs of the Riverside Stadium. He points out that amongst all the exotic owners of English football clubs, from Russian Oligarchs to Middle Eastern Royalty, Middlesbrough’s owner is former local authority accountant Steve Gibson.

With the club currently sitting proudly in the Premiership, maybe there are hints of further success this season following recent promotion. Ian talks, slightly wistfully, of the days when his club was managed by ex-England and Manchester United captain Bryan Robson and the blandishments (climate?) of Teesside brought the likes of Italian international Ravenelli and Brazilian legend Juninho to the club.

Looking back in the world of work, by 1983 Ian had moved on to what is now Redcar and Cleveland authority as a senior Rating Assistant, thence to Gateshead as Principal Rating Officer and by 1988 was Revenues Manager at Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council. Like everyone who served in local government but most particularly those involved with revenues and benefits, this is the time best remembered, or perhaps most easily remembered, for the introduction of the Poll Tax! First in Scotland in 1989 and then in England in 1990.

Quite apart from the intense political atmosphere and the practical need to recruit more staff, Ian’s experience at Nuneaton and Bedworth has a darkly humorous aspect to it. With a Labour-controlled council fiercely opposed to the tax, the entire team was moved out of its offices in the Council House to a building opposite. With barely concealed irony the building was christened ‘Poll Tax House’, presumably to focus attention on it and to literally distance it from the rest of the council’s business.

As Ian puts it “The council didn’t want to know us and the public didn’t want to know us either!”.

What he also recalls, however, is the camaraderie amongst the hard-pressed occupants of Poll Tax House, particularly among those who shared IRRV membership.

In fact, throughout the whole of this period the IRRV’s next president was developing his passion for education as part of the Institute’s mission and values. Now on the brink of the highest office in the Institute’s governance, he has a distinguished history of contribution to this aspect of the IRRV’s work. He is currently both secretary and education liaison officer for the Northern Counties Association, has tutored in Revenues Administration, Council Tax Law, Non-Domestic Rating Law and Benefits Administration at certificate (previously technician) level, Diploma level Administration and Management and Revenues Administration at Level 2. He has also taught at both Dudley and Catterick courses as well as the pre-exam revision course at Caerleon and Keele University.

By 2003 he was much travelled in local authority terms and now decided to return to the north east with Derwentside Council as Revenues and Benefits Manager. Itself the product of a reorganisation under the Local Government Act of 1972 which merged Consett Urban District, Stanley Urban District and Lanchester Rural District, Derwentside was one of seven District Councils which merged with Durham County Council in 2009, which presented Ian with his next challenge in the geographically large and diverse authority.

As Revenues and Benefits Manager of England’s fifth biggest authority, he found himself responsible for a department of 300 staff and a remit covering 220,000 properties compared to 40,000 on his previous ‘watch’.

“County Durham”, he says, “is a big, largely rural area with a population of half a million and thirteen modest sized towns but no major urban centre. Durham itself is beautiful but by no means big. The Revenues and Benefits offices were located in Spennymoor, which meant the vast majority of staff having to travel, some of them quite long commutes. In addition, we were losing a lot of senior managers with many key functions only needing one head rather than eight. As with all major restructures there were significant changes to people and processes, while the pressure was on to improve performance and efficiency.”

As before, he found that the IRRV was a unifying factor in all of this for those staff who were members, with both ‘unofficial’ mentoring and the structures of the Institute providing a professional level of support.

The final instalment of Ian’s local authority career ended when he left Durham County Council on 31st March 2016. He ruefully reveals that the final four weeks of his long sojourn in the public sector was spent laid up with a snapped achilles tendon.

“I have to confess it was a battle scar of a lunchtime five-a-side football match with some work colleagues”, he says “definitely a life experience which can be filed in the ‘you should have known better’ drawer, but at least I can say my footballing activities died with their boots on.”

As a youngster he had been a pacey outside right and enforced retirement through injury, as all enthusiastic amateurs will agree, is a hard pill to swallow. Now his very occasional golf is something of a consolation although he is mysteriously vague about whether any IRRV golf trophy carries his name.

His other major form of ‘relaxation’ is in the field of popular music. Particularly, but not exclusively, a fan of the 80s genres, his interest is far from being sedentary, with a diary list of live gigs from Lloyd Cole to Bryan Ferry and China Crisis to the Kaiser Chiefs. ‘Being there’ is all part of the experience, not just listening to.

Now, looking forward to a year in office travelling, meeting up with old friends and colleagues, he is far from being ‘retiring’ about the task ahead for the Institute.

In addition to his other duties he has been Chair of the IRRV’s Commercial Services Committee in recent times, so has a good fix on priorities.

“Education and membership are the life blood of any professional institute”, he says “and this of course needs to be supported by a strong income stream from commercial activities.

The public sector is under pressure on costs, which directly affects the resources of local authorities to fund training and education, while private sector providers find local authority spending is down, which influences their involvement in our events.

However, with issues such as the introduction of Universal Credit, our profession will continue to have a focus on its activities and performance. This is something we can turn to our advantage by stressing the need for highly qualified specialists who can implement new policy, procedures and performance targets. If we can’t convince them of the value of Institute membership and qualifications, then many authorities are heading for an implementation disaster.”

In Ian Ferguson, the IRRV has an ambassador for its programme with a wealth of experience to draw on. Not only is this the case with his time in a number of local authorities, but also in his grasp of both revenues and benefits roles, where they overlap and where they divide. In addition, he has served with a number of Associations; Northern Counties; Lancashire and Cheshire and the West Midlands, where he was President, and has also been a regular attendee of East Midlands meetings and with IRRV in Scotland.

‘Education, education, education’ is a theme which might just have been used before, but it’s never been said with more conviction than by the IRRV’s President-to-be – indeed in 2011 he completed a Masters degree in Management! For anyone seeking advice on a future in the profession or with a technical question to be answered, he’s definitely your man.
Ian and his son, supporting The 'Boro at Wembley