Panel Event

Reviving Our Communities

Held on January 16th 2024

This panel event focused on our existing business rates system and how charities and landlords can better work together to make the most of commercial spaces for the benefit of local communities.


Deep dive into empty rates savings and ESG-friendly options

What and Why

Expected Empty Rates Changes in England. Where are we now?

Why was this event held?

By gathering all relevant parties in a room together, we are able to share perspectives from across a range of sectors as to the issues, challenges and opportunities surrounding business rates, commercial property and charitable action.

Through a better understanding of mechanisms that are available and a willingness to collaborate there are endless opportunities for landlords, property consultants and charities alike.

By sharing some success stories with you, and bringing attention to the business rates system, all parties can understand why taking action against exploitation of loopholes is important.

Watch the event videos below for a lively, thought-provoking and engaging debate between our panellists!

More on the Panel

Ealing Council

Councillor Bassam Mahfouz

Councillor Bassam Mahfouz is a Labour candidate in the borough of Ealing. He is also an Ealing Labour Cabinet Member for Safe & Genuinely Affordable Homes. Plus as CEO of a Kingston based charity, benefitting from rent-free space to complement their main site, Bassam brings a double perspective to the panel.

Jerry Schurder – Head of Business Rates at Gerald Eve

Jerry is the Business Rates Policy Lead at Gerald Eve, advocating for a fairer, sustainable rating system. With over 40 years in rating and valuation, he served as Head of Business Rates for 20 years. A former President of the Rating Surveyors’ Association and Chairman of the RICS Rating and Local Taxation Advisory Forum, Jerry is also a Fellow of the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation. An expert voice, he has provided evidence to the House of Commons and is a prominent figure in national media and conferences on business rates.


Pieter Strombeck – Southside Shopping Centre Director

Pieter is the Centre Director at Savills’ Southside Shopping Centre Wandsworth, a LandSec JV, with a demonstrated history of working in the shopping centre industry.

Himesh Patel – Managing Director, Mantra Insurance

Himesh is a Director of Central based Mantra Insurance. Himesh has over 14 years’ experience in structuring complex insurance programmes for real estate and construction led businesses.

Jessica Craig – Policy Officer at Power to Change

Jessica is the Policy Officer at Power to Change, the social change organisation that strengthens communities through community business. She works on policy development and building relationships with central and local government.

Keith Morgan – CEO of Voluntary Action Camden

Keith is the CEO of Voluntary Action Camden, which since 1907 has supported the voluntary and community sector in the London Borough of Camden.

Voluntary Action Camden

Matt Soffair – LGIM, Research, Strategy and Transition

Matt is LGIM Real Assets’ Senior Strategist, specialising in all consumer-facing real assets sectors. He is responsible for market research, driving strategic operational initiatives and guiding investment strategy. Matt is also responsible for research into key thematic areas, including climate transition risk, operational real estate and emerging alternatives sectors.

William Polisano, Development professional

William is a member of the Urban Land Institute and has worked on the acquisition, financing and delivery of some of London’s most complex schemes. He has also spent many years looking at the provision of high-quality temporary housing for homeless families.


6.30pm – Welcome + food provided by Brixton Soup Kitchen

7.00pm – Introduction

A welcome and introduction to guests with a brief overview of the current conversation and environment surrounding business rates in England. Specifically focusing on how landlords, local communities and charities can work together to create positive outcomes for all.

7.15pm – Panel discussion, where attendees will hear from:

  • Bassam Mahfouz, Councillor for Ealing & refugee charity CEO
  • Simon Green, Head of Business Rates, Gerald Eve property advisers
  • Pieter Strombeck, Director at Southside Shopping Centre
  • Shaylesh Patel, Founder of ASTOP and Temporary Use Aid
  • Keith Morgan, CEO of Voluntary Action Camden
  • Matt Soffair, L&G Investment Management
  • William Polisano, Complex scheme property development
  • Jessica Craig, Policy Officer at Power to Change

8.05pm – Guest speakers

  • Simon Westgarth, CEO Richmond Furniture Scheme (retail, storage and collaborating)
  • The audience will hear from a representative of Medaille Trust (offices saves lives)
  • Solomon Smith, Founder and Trustee chair, Brixton Soup Kitchen

8.15pm – Rainbow gazing and Networking for attendees

9.00pm – Finish

WhatsApp us at +44 7586 792766