Ports rating case lawyer joins Ward Hadaway | 23 August 10

THE lawyer who has played a key role in the successful high-profile campaign to stop potentially crippling backdated business rates being levied on businesses in Britain’s ports has joined law firm Ward Hadaway.

Andrew Finfer

Andrew Finfer (pictured) directed the legal and political campaign by port companies which has freed them from having to pay an estimated £175m in backdated business rates originally imposed by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).

The campaign, which has lasted for more than two years, went to the highest levels in Westminster and its success has ensured that hundreds of businesses at ports such as Humber Docks, Port of Tyne and Teesport are not faced with bills which could have threatened their survival.

Andrew, a specialist rating, competition and commercial lawyer, has now joined Ward Hadaway as a partner in the UK Top 100 firm’s commercial team and will be based at the firm’s Leeds office.

A graduate economist with line management experience in commerce and manufacturing industry, Andrew has advised national and international trading companies on their trading arrangements and advised and represented clients before the Competition Commission and the Office of Fair Trading.

He is currently working with central and local government, companies and rating surveyors on a wide range of rating matters.

Andrew Finfer said: “I am really pleased to be joining Ward Hadaway. The firm has an excellent reputation for high quality work and a real rapport with clients and it is clearly ambitious for more success.

“I am looking forward to working with my new colleagues at the firm and to continuing my work in the rating field.

“Whilst the port rates campaign has met with real success, there is still some way to go so I will continue to provide support and expertise to those businesses affected in the time to come.

“As a full service firm with a wide range of experienced experts, Ward Hadaway is ideally placed to help in that regard.”

Colin Hewitt, partner and head of the commercial team at Ward Hadaway, said: “Andrew has done some fantastic work with this very important campaign and is a high-profile, nationally recognised expert in his field so his recruitment is a real coup for the firm.

“He will be a real asset to Ward Hadaway and our clients so we are delighted he has chosen to join us.”

The port rating dispute dates back to 2005 when the Valuation Office Agency carried out a revaluation of port properties but failed to identify discrepancies in local rating lists.

It then failed to tell port businesses about these changes until 2008 when it hit them with unexpected demands for backdated rates.

In some cases, these bills amounted to £9m and in others to nearly half of a company’s turnover, potentially plunging many companies into insolvency.

Andrew Finfer became involved at this stage as port-based businesses began proceedings for the judicial review of the decision to impose retrospective rates.

As well as legal proceedings, the campaign also pursued a parliamentary route, lobbying MPs and members of the House of Lords.

This eventually resulted in the defeat of the last government in the House of Lords by a coalition of Conservative, Liberal and Cross-Bench peers on an amendment to the Business Rate Supplement Bill drafted by Mr Finfer.

The Conservative Party then made a manifesto commitment to impose a freeze on the payment of backdated rates, a pledge adopted by the Coalition Government and introduced in June’s emergency budget.

Andrew is now working with the Government on the legislation to abolish the backdated rates.

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