Dear Cheshire West and Chester Council,

The Chester Standard, dated 25 July 2013, reports that the council is making a decision about whether to write off a bad debt of £62,193.09.

Please advise:

1) What the debt relates to.

2) How the debt was incurred.

3) The period over which debt was incurred?

4) The type of debtor:

a) Trade (Limited Company)
b) Trade (Sole trader or partnership)
c) Member of the public
d) Member of staff
e) Councillor
f) Other public body
g) Other (please specify)

5) Whether the council has obtained judgement in the county court in respect of the debt and, if so, the outcome of those proceedings.

6) The name of the debtor if permitted by DPA.

Thank you,

Yours faithfully,

John Murray

Cheshire West and Chester Council

RE: Your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

Case Reference: 101001511854

Dear Mr Murray

Thank you for your email 26th July 2013.

It will be treated as a request within the meaning of the Act: this means that we will send you a full response within 20 working days, either supplying you with the information which you want, or explaining to you why we cannot supply it.

If we need any further clarification or there is any problem we will be in touch.

In the meantime if you wish to discuss this further please contact me. It would be helpful if you could quote the log number 1511854.

Yours sincerely

Scott Robertson
FOI Unit

Solutions Team

Cheshire West and Chester Council

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FOI West, Cheshire West and Chester Council

Dear Mr Murray

Further to your Freedom of Information request, Log Number 1511854. Unfortunately, it is taking slightly longer than anticipated to compile this information.

I apologise for this delay and will forward our response shortly.

Yours sincerely

Caroline Timms
FOI Unit
Cheshire West and Chester Council

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FOI West, Cheshire West and Chester Council

Dear Mr Murray

 

Further to your Freedom of Information request, Log Number 1511854.  I can
confirm that the Council holds information relating to your request.

 

The Chester Standard, dated 25 July 2013, reports that the council is
making a decision about whether to write off a bad debt of £62,193.09.

 

1) What the debt relates to

 

The debt that was written off relates to non payment of rental income in
relation to an industrial unit leased out by the Council. 

 

2) How the debt was incurred

 

The business involved failed to make payment against the lease during the
period of occupation before March 2011. 

 

3) The period over which debt was incurred

 

The property, a warehouse, was leased to the company between June 2010 and
March 2011. 

 

4) The type of debtor

 

The company involved is a Limited Company

 

5) Whether the council has obtained judgement in the county court in
respect of the debt and, if so, the outcome of those proceedings

 

The Council has not sought a County Court Judgment against the company. 

 

6) The name of the debtor if permitted by DPA

 

We are unable to comply with your request and in refusing your request we
are relying on the following exemption:

 

Section 43 (2) Commercial Interests

Information will fall within this exemption if release of the information
requested is likely to prejudice the commercial interests of any person.
(A person may be an individual, a company, the public authority itself or
any other legal entity.)

               

Section 43 is a qualified exemption and is subject to the public interest
test. Where the Council is satisfied that the information requested  if
released would prejudice someone’s commercial interests, the Council can
only refuse to provide the information if it is satisfied that the public
interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in
disclosing it. The bias is in favour of disclosure.

 

The Information Commissioner suggests considering the following factors
when applying the public interest test to this exemption:

 

a) Does the information relate to, or could it impact on a commercial
activity?

b) Is that commercial activity conducted in a competitive environment?

c) Would there be damage to reputation or business confidence?

d) Whose commercial interests are affected?

e) Is the information commercially sensitive?

f) What is the likelihood of the prejudice being caused?

 

The company who the lease was with carried out commercial activities in
the open and competitive market. They will have competitors who may use
the information to their advantage and to the disadvantage of the third
party. The information relates to the way that the third party conducts
its business and is therefore commercially sensitive. If the information
is disclosed, there is a significant and likely risk of prejudice to the
third parties financially and in respect of their business interests and
ability to compete in the open market.

 

In relation to the public interest test the Information Commissioner
suggests recording:

 

•    Public interest factors in favour of maintaining the exemption and
the weight attached to them.

•      Public interest factors in favour of disclosure, and the weight
attached to them.

•      The outcome of the public interest test. The information can only
be withheld if the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs
the public interest in disclosure.

 

Factors in favour of maintaining the Factors in favour of disclosure
exemption
Release of the information could Local Government dealings should be
damage business confidence in the open transparent and accessible by
business concerned as disclosure may the public in order to obtain the
indicate that they have unpaid debts trust of the community
and are struggling financially.
 
HIGH
HIGH
Third parties operate in a commercial  
environment where there is competition
between business of the same of
similar type

HIGH
There is a significant risk of  
prejudice to the financial interest of
the company and this could undermine
confidence in them.

HIGH
The information may also cause  
unnecessary and unwarranted public
alarm which may also prejudice the
commercial interests of the company.

HIGH

 

The outcome of the public interest test is that the public interest
factors in favour of maintaining the exemption outweigh the public
interest in disclosure.

 

If you are unhappy with the way your request for information has been
handled, you can request a review by writing to:

 

Solutions Team

Cheshire West and Chester Council

HQ

58 Nicholas Street

Chester

CH1 2NP

 

If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request or complaint,
you have a right of appeal to the Information Commissioner at:

 

The Information Commissioner's Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire SK9 5AF

 

Telephone: 08456 30 60 60 or 01625 54 57 45

Website: [1]www.ico.gov.uk

 

There is no charge for making an appeal.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Caroline Timms

FOI Unit

Cheshire West and Chester Council

 

 

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Gadawodd Ray McHale anodiad ()

So if the Council can take thousands to court for being in arrears with their Council Tax, why has it not been to court over this debt - allowing the employment of bailiffs or High Court Sheriffs? Is it only little people the Council pursue. Why should they be able to maintain anonymity (and thus a good business reputation) when they don't deserve one. If they were taken to court it would be publically reported, so why are the council bending over backwards to help them rip-off Council Tax payers?

Gadawodd John Murray anodiad ()

I totally agree and won't let this rest.

Gadawodd michael cattell anodiad ()

Surely if the company involved failed to make payments, then they should be taken to court. If they then fail to pay, they should be wound up. If they are wound up, then all of the excuses regarding competitor activity/knowledge are irrelevant.

Dear Cheshire West and Chester Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Cheshire West and Chester Council's handling of my FOI request 'Bad Debt Write Off'.

I wish to appeal against the decision to withhold the debtor's name.

The council states: "The outcome of the public interest test is that the public interest factors in favour of maintaining the exemption outweigh the public interest in disclosure."

However, I believe the council has failed to consider all the public interest factors in favour of disclosure.

The only reason given in favour of disclosure is the generic "Local Government dealings should be open transparent and accessible by the public in order to obtain the trust of the community."

There is a public interest in consumers, creditors, and others being informed about the way businesses operate in their area and a public interest in understanding the way public authorities collect rent debts and council taxes.

At a time of austerity, when local authorities have very tight constraints on budgets, there is a high public interest in knowing more about the circumstances whereby a substantial debt of £62k was simply written-off without exhausting legal options to pursue it, and whether the decision to do so was even a lawful one.

By not seeking a county court judgement, it can be argued that the council has not pursued all legal options as this would be a normal step to take in the recovery of trade debts.

Therefore I conclude that public interest factors in favour of disclosure, outweigh those in favour of withholding the information.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/b...

Yours faithfully,

John Murray

Gadawodd Paul Cardin anodiad ()

Merging services with abusive Wirral Council ain't gonna fix this.

See Wirral's written off debts of between £27 million and £31 million. Mainly within the Department of Adult Social Services.

FOI West, Cheshire West and Chester Council

Dear Mr Murray

Thank you for your email dated 14 September 2013. An internal review will be arranged and you will be advised of the date of it shortly.

Yours sincerely

Caroline Timms
FOI Unit
Cheshire West and Chester Council

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Dear FOI West,

Please advise the date of the internal review as more than 20 working days have elapsed since you acknowledged my request for one.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

John Murray

FOI West, Cheshire West and Chester Council

Mr Murray
We plan to hold the review of your case on 24.10.2013.

As a point of information the legislation allows for 40 working days from the date of your request to holding the review.
Whilst we endeavour to complete reviews as soon as possible we involve senior legal officers and senior managers in this process and it can at times take a while to organise diaries etc.

I trust that this information reassures you of our intentions. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require any further assistance.
Yours sincerely
David P Finlay
The Solutions Team
HQ Building
4th floor
Chief Executives Office
Te: 01244-972235

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FOI West, Cheshire West and Chester Council

1 Atodiad

Dear Mr Murray

 

Please find attached the Decision Notice following the Internal Review
held on 23 October 2013 to discuss your request for information, reference
1511854.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Ruth Winson

Solutions Team

Cheshire West and Chester Council

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Gadawodd John Murray anodiad ()

This request is currently the subject of an appeal to the Information Commissioner.

I will advise of progress.

Gadawodd geoff kelly anodiad ()

Any news john?

Gadawodd John Murray anodiad ()

Not as yet, Geoff. It's still with the ICO so I wouldn't hold your breath if past experience is anything to go by.

Gadawodd John Murray anodiad ()

Unfortunately the ICO didn't uphold my complaint.

The decision notice FS50525814 may be found here:

http://www.ico.org.uk/~/media/documents/...

Gadawodd geoff kelly anodiad ()

Hit them with a new request..Asking how many times in the last five years and amounts...Creative thinking needed.
Ask about legal costs chasing these debts to see if they have...Or not!

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