Complete Non-Residential / Business Property Rates Data

Gavin Chait made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council as part of a batch sent to 27 authorities

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Gwrthodwyd y cais gan Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council.

Dear Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council,

In terms of the Freedom of Information Act of 2000, could you please provide me with a complete and up-to-date list of all business (non-residential) property rates data for your local authority, and including the following fields:

- Billing Authority Code
- Firm's Trading Name (i.e. property occupant)
- Full Property Address (Number, Street, Postal Code, Town)
- Occupied / Vacant
- Date of Occupation / Vacancy
- Actual annual rates charged (in Pounds)

While such data series are often published by local authorities, I have undertaken a thorough search of your website and have not found these. If they are available, as requested, then please - in terms of Section 21 of the act - could you provide a link to the page where the data are published, as well as guidance on the update frequency.

I appreciate that properties owned / rented by individuals are personal information and such personal data (i.e. the Firm's Trading Name) would be excluded from my request in terms of Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. In such cases, please provide the remaining information with the Firm's Trading Name either blank or listed as 'individual'.

Please provide this as machine-readable as either a CSV or Microsoft Excel file, capable of re-use, and under terms of the Open Government Licence.

I am compiling a comprehensive time-series database of business activity across the UK and will require the dataset updated on a quarterly basis. Some 20% of local authorities already provide this dataset (and a total of 30% of local authorities provide a subset of these data) on a monthly to quarterly basis on a dedicated page on their websites or on an open data service. I would appreciate it if you could do the same.

Yours faithfully,

Gavin Chait

Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Atodiad

 
Please  quote ID  8302    on all correspondence/emails/faxes 

Dear   Sir,   

I am emailing to confirm the receipt of your recent FOI request to Wigan
Council .    This has been logged and will be forwarded to the relevant
department for action.  

 

We will respond as soon as possible and in any case no later than  13th
  April  2016 , which is 20 working days after the receipt of your
request  (taking into account the Easter Bank Holidays) 

 

If you have any comments or questions in the meantime, please direct them
to [1][Wigan Council request email], or to Complaints and Information Team,
Resources Directorate, Wigan Council, PO Box 100, WN1 3DS

 

The Council does not charge for most FOI requests, but charges may be made
for actual disbursements incurred such as photocopying, printing, postage
and packaging, and only if these charges amount to more than £20.00. If a
charge is to be made, confirmation of the payment due will be given before
the information is provided and payment may be requested prior to the
provision of the information.

 

Your contact is Kath MacDonald.

 

Regards

 

Complaints and Information Team

Resources Directorate
Wigan Council, PO Box 100

Town Hall, Library Street, Wigan WN1 3DS
[2]www.wigan.gov.uk
[3]www.twitter.com/wigancouncil
[4]www.facebook.com/WiganCouncilOnline

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As a public body, the Council may be required to disclose this email or
any response to it under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 unless the
information in it is covered by one of the exemptions in the Act.

 

 

 

 
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Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council

3 Atodiad

Dear Sir

I am writing to respond to your freedom of information request recently
received. This request has been handled under the Freedom of Information
Act 2000.

The response to your request is detailed below and in the attachment.

We are refusing to provide information in relation to empty properties
under Section 31(1)(a) of the FOI Act.

(1) Information which is not exempt information by virtue of section 30 is
exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be
likely to, prejudice—

(a) the prevention or detection of crime,

The release of the information that you have requested would facilitate
the identification of property which may as a result be vulnerable to
theft and vandalism. I am of the opinion that its release would be
analogous to the release of information about empty properties which was
considered by the Information Tribunal in the case of Mr C P England and
London Borough of Bexley v Information Commissioner (EA/2006/0060,0066)
and in the case of Yiannis Voyias and London Borough of Camden v
Information Commissioner (EA/2011/0007). The Tribunal decided that the
release of information about empty properties was likely to prejudice the
prevention of crime as it would make it easier to identify them thereby
placing them at risk of crime.

As section 31 is a qualified exemption I have considered whether the
public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest
in disclosing the information. I consider there to be a strong public
interest in protecting the prevention or detection of crime and that it
outweighs any public interest there might be in terms of transparency and
accountability which might result from disclosure. I do not feel that
there is a particular public interest argument to be made at all in favour
of disclosure in relation to this information and in any event it is
outweighed by the public interest in preventing crime.

We are also unable to report against rates payable but I have included the
RV which can be used to calculate the rates payable.

If you are unhappy with any aspect of this response, an independent senior
officer will review this decision. If you are not satisfied with our
response you must put your complaint in writing within 40 working days of
receipt of this response giving the reasons for your complaint.  You can
either email [1][Wigan Council request email] or write to the Complaints and
Information Team at the address below.

You can also complain to the Information Commissioner, who is the
regulator for Freedom of Information. His website is
[2]https://ico.org.uk/ and his helpline number is 0303 1231113.

His staff may ask you to exhaust our internal complaints procedure if you
choose to complain to his office now.

Kind Regards

Complaints and Information Team

Resources Directorate
Wigan Council, PO Box 100
Town Hall, Library Street, Wigan WN1 3DS

[3]www.wigan.gov.uk
[4]www.twitter.com/wigancouncil
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Dear Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Complete Non-Residential / Business Property Rates Data'.

On 14 March 2016, I sent an FOI request for a complete and up-to-date list of all business (non-residential) property rates data, and including the following fields:

- Billing Authority Code
- Firm's Trading Name (i.e. property occupant)
- Full Property Address (Number, Street, Postal Code, Town)
- Occupied / Vacant
- Date of Occupation / Vacancy
- Actual annual rates charged (in Pounds)

My request has been refused in terms of Section 31(a). According to the Information Commissioners Office, "Section 31 is a prejudice based exemption and is subject to the public interest test. This means that not only does the information have to prejudice one of the purposes listed, but, before the information can be withheld, the public interest in preventing that prejudice must outweigh the public interest in disclosure."

Section 31(a) deals specifically with "the prevention or detection of crime".

A property being empty may well lead to it being more likely to suffer potential criminal activity, but it does not automatically follow that publishing a list of empty properties in any way changes that potential.

The purpose of our use of the data requested is in informing entrepreneurs and business seekers about opportunities in empty premises when they are advertised for new tenants. We combine local authority premises occupation data with other data (from the Valuations Office and ONS) to develop forward guidance on business potential in each empty business property. Further details on our activities are available at http://pikhaya.com, but our activity is supported by the Open Data Institute and we have received funding from the EU Open Data Incubator to develop this service.

Our combined data are made available via online commercial property leasing intermediaries as a free service to business seekers. These leasing intermediaries combine our data with properties being offered for rent.

In other words, these are properties being clearly advertised as empty whether the local authority data are publicly available or not.

Of the 350 local authorities in England and Wales, over 150 of these either already make empty property data available, or have done so in response to FOI requests from ourselves.

We are mindful, though, that not all authorities wish to release direct information on empty premises. In that case, could we suggest that you provide only a list of occupied properties which we would then reconcile against the master list of properties from the Valuations Office Agency (VOA). VOA data are available via their website, and the complete database by subscription. Empty premises will be known to residents of the community in which they are based.That means that anyone not resident in your community and wanting to find the list of empty properties would have to undertake the costs and technicalities of a similar data reconciliation.

I would ask that you consider that the public interest in economic development and improving opportunities for independent businesses and entrepreneurs far outweighs any concern that the release of data which can identify empty business properties may cause crime.

Unemployment and economic deprivation are often key to reducing the potential for crime. Our intention is to support local economic development initiatives through the use of these data.

I ask that you reconsider your decision and make this data available to us under terms which permit our use thereof.

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

Yours faithfully,

Gavin Chait

Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council

2 Atodiad

 

Dear Mr Chait

Notice of Review

 

I have been asked to review the decision by the Council to withhold
information requested as below;

 

‘a complete list of all business property rates data for your local
authority,  and including the following fields:

-Billing Authority Code

-Firm’s Trading Name

-Full property Address

-Occupied/Vacant

-Date of Occupation/Vacancy

-Actual annual rates charged

 

The refusal was based on the provisions of Section 31(1) (a) of the FOI
Act namely the prevention of crime. In the opinion of the Service Manager,
Housing Services, the release of the information would facilitate the
identification of property which may, as a result, be vulnerable to theft
and vandalism. The release of property details would make it easier to
identify them thereby placing them at risk of crime.

I agree with these reasons and consider that the Service Manager has, as a
practitioner, a significant knowledge of the issues surrounding this
request and therefore S31 (1) (a) is engaged.

 

In previous tribunal cases outlined in the decision notices, and noted in
decision notice FS50538789 – Stoke on Trent Council the opinion of
professional officers has been accepted. In addition the findings in this
case and others including Case no EA/2011/0007 Voyias v The Information
Commissioner and The London Borough of Camden, lend weight to the
proposition that the release of information about empty properties is
likely to prejudice the prevention of crime and could lead to risk of
crime and anti – social behaviour.

 

In relation to the public interest issue I consider that the public
interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in
disclosing the information.

In my view the following arguments are in favour of disclosure

·         The necessity for transparency in public affairs

·         The Councils social and fiduciary duty to bring back into use
empty buildings

·         The Council needs to be accountable and explain how Council
resources are used.

The following arguments are in favour of maintaining the exemption

·         The release of the information would enable crimes to be
committed. This could range from forcing entry to the use of premises for
unlawful reasons e.g drug-taking to criminal damage in ‘stripping’ the
property.

·         The release of the information could result in squatters
entering the property or anti-social behaviour occurring which could
damage the property and make it more difficult and expensive to bring the
property back in to use.

·         Much of the properties are not owned by or controlled by the
Council.

·         People living in the area of the empty properties have right to
the quiet enjoyment of the property and this will be threatened if details
requested are provided.

·         People in close proximity to the property may feel unsafe or
threatened if a crime is committed or anti- social behaviour is
commonplace and the they have an expectation to feel secure in the
environment they live in

 

In this case I consider that the public interest in avoiding prejudice to
the prevention of crime outweighs the public interest in disclosure given
the circumstances of this particular case.

 

Prospective businesses can contact the council at
[1][email address], and we will gladly provide assistance with any
property searches they need assistance with.

If you are not satisfied with our response you can complain to the
Information Commissioner, who is the regulator for Freedom of Information.
His website is [2]https://ico.org.uk/ and his helpline number is 0303
1231113.

Kind Regards

Angela Harwood
Complaints Lawyer
Resources - Legal
Wigan Council
01942 486179

[3]www.wigan.gov.uk
[4]www.twitter.com/wigancouncil
[5]www.facebook.com/WiganCouncilOnline

 

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As a public body, the Council may be required to disclose this email or
any response to it under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 unless the
information in it is covered by one of the exemptions in the Act.

This email together with any files transmitted with it are confidential
and intended solely for the use of the individual to whom they are
addressed. The information may be covered by legal professional privilege.
Do not copy, disclose or distribute the information. If you are not the
addressee, please contact the sender and immediately delete this email and
any attachments'

Please don't print this e-mail unless you really need to.

 

 

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