Nid ydym yn gwybod a yw'r ymateb mwyaf diweddar i'r cais hwn yn cynnwys gwybodaeth neuai peidio - os chi ywL Jones mewngofnodwch a gadael i bawb wybod.

Use of Empty Rates Relief for Commercial and Industrial Properties

We're waiting for L Jones to read a recent response and update the status.

Dear Haringey Borough Council,
I would like to request responses to the following questions:
1) For how many commercial properties within the London Borough of Haringey have there been multiple applications for empty rates relief in the past three years with a time lapse of no less than approximately four and a half months between applications?
2) For how many industrial properties within the London Borough of Haringey have there been multiple applications for empty rates relief in the past three years with a time lapse of no less than approximately seven and a half months between applications?
3) What are the addresses of the properties covered by your answers to questions (1) and (2) above?
4) Who are the proprietors of the properties covered by your answers to questions (1) and (2) above?
5) For each proprietor covered by your response to question (4), what is their interest in the property (for example, freehold or leasehold)?
6) For each proprietor covered by your response to question (4), are they a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)?
7) If the applicants for empty rates relief for the properties covered by your answers to questions (1) and (2) above are not the proprietors of those properties, who are the applicants?
8) For each of the properties mentioned in your answers to the questions above, on what date did the London Borough of Haringey receive the most recent application for empty rates relief, and was such relief granted?
Alternatively, if you already operate a publication scheme for any of the information requested above, please can you let me know where and how I can access this scheme in order to obtain that information? Of course, for any information requested above that is not part of a publication scheme, I would still like to receive that information from you by way of this Freedom of Information request.
I understand that certain landowners are exploiting a loophole in the Non-Domestic Rating (Unoccupied Property) (England) Regulations 2008 to avoid paying business rates for long periods of time while keeping their properties empty.
An empty commercial or industrial property will be exempt from paying business rates for a certain period of time. After three months (for a commercial property) or six months (for an industrial property) of being empty, the landowner must start paying business rates again.
I am aware that certain landowners will enter into a lease of at least six weeks at the end of this three or six month period with the sole intention of using this lease to avoid paying business rates for a further three or six months once the lease expires.
This is done to get around regulation 5 of the Non-Domestic Rating (Unoccupied Property) (England) Regulations 2008, according to which a lease of less than six weeks would not achieve this goal.
It is worth noting that, despite the six week lease, the property is likely to remain continuously empty by any reasonable definition of the word, as High Court case-law has found that simply installing Bluetooth apparatus into a premises is enough for that property to be “occupied”.
I trust there will be no issues regarding the ‘personal data’ exemption to disclosing information. I understand that ‘personal data’ is limited to data about identifiable living individuals and does not extend to information about companies or organisations. To the extent that the vast majority of answers you can provide to my questions above will relate to companies and organisations, I expect you will be able to disclose those answers without breaching your obligations under the Data Protection Act.
However, if you take the view that some of the requested information does constitute ‘personal data’, I trust you will be able to find a way of processing it fairly and lawfully such that you are able to fulfil your duties under the Data Protection Principles. I implore you to find a way of doing so, especially given the public interest in disclosing this information, given its importance to the public discussion on issues such as tax avoidance, homelessness and property speculation. Such importance was recently recognised by Judge Fiona Henderson, who noted in the context of a freedom of information case brought against Camden London Borough Council that “the public interest lies in putting empty properties back into use” and who thereby ordered the disclosure of certain information that would facilitate this. It is suggested that the information requested herein would also facilitate this, by contributing to the public discussion on properties that remain empty and hopefully driving forward public policy proposals that would bring such properties back into use.
Yours faithfully,
L Jones

Haringey Borough Council

Dear L Jones

 

Freedom of Information / Environmental Information Regulations Request:
LBH/7098918

 

I acknowledge your request for information received on 16 February 2018.

 

This information request will be dealt with in accordance with the Freedom
of Information Act 2000 / Environmental Information Regulations and we
will send the response by 16 March 2018

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

Feedback and Information Governance

 

Shared Service Centre | Central Team

Haringey Council 

10th Floor, Alexandra House, 10 Station Road, Wood Green, London N22 7TR

 

www.haringey.gov.uk

twitter@haringeycouncil

facebook.com/haringeycouncil

 

 

This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential, may be
subject to legal privilege and are intended only for the person(s) or
organisation(s) to whom this email is addressed. Any unauthorised use,
retention, distribution, copying or disclosure is strictly prohibited. If
you have received this email in error, please notify the system
administrator at Haringey Council immediately and delete this e-mail from
your system. Although this e-mail and any attachments are believed to be
free of any virus or other defect which might affect any computer or
system into which they are received and opened, it is the responsibility
of the recipient to ensure they are virus free and no responsibility is
accepted for any loss or damage from receipt or use thereof. All
communications sent to or from external third party organisations may be
subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant
legislation.

Bradburn Mick, Haringey Borough Council

Dear L Jones,

Re: Freedom of Information Act Request ref: LBH/7098918

 

Thank you for your request for information received on 16 February 2018,
in which you asked for the following information:

 

I would like to request responses to the following questions: 

1) For how many commercial properties within the London Borough of
Haringey have there been multiple applications for empty rates relief in
the past three years with a time lapse of no less than approximately four
and a half months between applications? 

2) For how many industrial properties within the London Borough of
Haringey have there been multiple applications for empty rates relief in
the past three years with a time lapse of no less than approximately seven
and a half months between applications? 

3) What are the addresses of the properties covered by your answers to
questions (1) and (2) above? 

4) Who are the proprietors of the properties covered by your answers to
questions (1) and (2) above? 

5) For each proprietor covered by your response to question (4), what is
their interest in the property (for example, freehold or leasehold)? 

6) For each proprietor covered by your response to question (4), are they
a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)? 

7) If the applicants for empty rates relief for the properties covered by
your answers to questions (1) and (2) above are not the proprietors of
those properties, who are the applicants? 

8) For each of the properties mentioned in your answers to the questions
above, on what date did the London Borough of Haringey receive the most
recent application for empty rates relief, and was such relief granted? 

 

 

My response is as follows:

 

We are refusing your request under section 12 of the Freedom of
Information Act because we estimate that compliance with 
your request will exceed the "appropriate limit" under section 12.  The appropriate 
limit is £450 which is equivalent to 18 hours at £25 per hour.   The per hour figure is set by 
Regulations rather than actual salary paid to any officers handling requests.  The appropriate 
limit includes the time it will take the council to discover if it holds the information requested, 
to locate it, extract it and collate it as well as putting it into any particular format requested by 
the requester. 

 

The information requested is not held in a format in which the data
requested can be readily extracted. In 
order to provide the information each property file would have to be
manually checked.

 
We have approximately 7000 properties registered for Business Rates and
estimate it would take approximately

5 minutes per case to carry out the manual check. This which would equate
to 350 hours of officer time which is vastly in excess

of the 18 hours allowed.

 

You will no doubt be aware of the pressure public sector organisations are
under to make huge cuts while maintaining the public services we deliver.
It may be that we can provide information that is equally useful to your
purpose without using so much staff time. If you tell us your reasons for
wanting this information, we would be better able to advise on alternative
approaches.

 

 

If you are unhappy with how we have responded to your request you can ask
us to conduct an Internal Review. If so, please contact the [1]Feedback
and Information Team.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Mick Bradburn

Project Manager (Revenues)

Shared Service Centre - Revenues

 

Haringey Council

P.O Box 10505, Wood Green, London N22 7WJ

 

 

T:020 8489 2853

[email address]

 

www.haringey.gov.uk

twitter@haringeycouncil

facebook.com/haringeycouncil

 

 

Please consider the environment before printing this email.

 

 

This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential, may be
subject to legal privilege and are intended only for the person(s) or
organisation(s) to whom this email is addressed. Any unauthorised use,
retention, distribution, copying or disclosure is strictly prohibited. If
you have received this email in error, please notify the system
administrator at Haringey Council immediately and delete this e-mail from
your system. Although this e-mail and any attachments are believed to be
free of any virus or other defect which might affect any computer or
system into which they are received and opened, it is the responsibility
of the recipient to ensure they are virus free and no responsibility is
accepted for any loss or damage from receipt or use thereof. All
communications sent to or from external third party organisations may be
subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant
legislation.

References

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1. mailto:[email address]

Dear Haringey Borough Council,

Your Ref: LBH/7098918

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

Thank you for your letter dated 8 March 2018 (Your Response), in which you responded to my correspondence dated 9 February 2018 (My Correspondence).

Your Response

I understand that you are refusing to answer the Freedom of Information (FOI) requests within My Correspondence on the grounds that the cost for doing so would exceed the appropriate limit of £450.

In reaching this conclusion, you estimate that you would have to check approximately 7,000 accounts. You estimate that it would take 5 minutes to check each account and that therefore it would take 350 hours to check each account.

In asserting all this, you rely on section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and the ‘appropriate limit’ set out in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004.

Internal Review

Please may I request an internal review of this decision?

I believe the decision contained within Your Response is incorrect, and I will outline my reasons for believing this below.

(1) The Cost of Accessing Storage

In your response, you state only that the information requested by my FOI requests is not held in a format in which data can be readily extracted. You do not make clear how your information is stored. For example, you do not specify if it is stored in an off-site or an in-house storage system.

Please confirm how it is stored, and in particular whether it is off-site or in-house.

Please also confirm whether and how the cost of accessing this storage system was included in your calculation of the overall cost of responding to my FOI requests.

(2) Your Failure to Provide Cogent Evidence

I understand you are under a duty to be “reasonable” in your response to FOI requests, and in particular when estimating the time it will take to comply with such requests.

I refer you to the case of Randall v Information Commissioner and Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (EA/2006/0004, 30 October 2007), which defined “reasonable” as meaning “sensible, realistic and supported by cogent evidence”.

I point you to paragraph 37 of the relevant guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office, available at https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio... (The Guidance), which highlights the following information you might have provided as ‘cogent evidence’:

- whether you have carried out any preliminary searches for the requested information;

- whether you have based your estimate on a random representative sampling exercise;

- which departments or members of staff have been contacted;

- the search terms used when querying electronic records; and:

- why you need to search any accounts to which you refer.

None of this information was provided in Your Response. Because Your Response fails to provide such ‘cogent evidence’, it is not reasonable.

(3) Your Failure to Act Reasonably in light of Other Authorities' Responses to Identical Requests

I refer once more to your duty to be “reasonable” when responding to FOI requests, and in particular to be “sensible and realistic”.

The FOI requests I sent to you have also been sent to other local authorities.

The London Boroughs of Bexley, Kingston-upon-Thames, Lambeth, Sutton and Wandsworth have each responded to my FOI requests with correspondence and excel spreadsheets providing answers to the eight questions I also asked of you.
If the London Boroughs of Bexley, Kingston-upon-Thames, Lambeth, Sutton and Wandsworth are able to provide such responses, it is not reasonable, sensible or realistic to suggest that the London Borough of Haringey cannot do the same.

(4) Treatment of My Correspondence as One FOI Request

I refer you to the case of Ian Fitzsimmons v ICO & Department for Culture, Media and Sport (EA/2007/0124. 17 June 2008), which established that multiple requests within a single item of correspondence should be treated as separate requests for the purpose of section 12.

Because My Correspondence contained eight separate questions, it should not be treated as one FOI request, but rather as multiple separate FOI requests within one document.

A separate costs estimate should therefore be made for each separate FOI request, rather than one aggregate estimate for the cost of responding to them all.

This could be achieved by calculating an aggregate costs estimate for responding to all eight FOI requests within My Correspondence, and dividing that overall figure by eight.

When costs are calculated in this manner, the cost of responding to each FOI request separately should fall comfortably below the appropriate limit.

(5) Your Failure to Offer Advice and Assistance

I understand that, where a public authority invokes section 12 FOIA in its refusal to disclose answers to an FOI request, that public authority is under a duty to provide advice and assistance to help the requestor refine their request so that it can be dealt with under the appropriate limit.

I further understand that, even where a public authority does not invoke section 12, it remains under a general duty to provide advice and assistance pursuant to section 16 FOIA.

Such advice and assistance may include advice as to what proportion of the requested information could fall within the appropriate limit, and advice as to how an FOI request might be re-formulated so as not to exceed the appropriate limit.

Your Response fails to offer any such advice and assistance.

Concluding Remarks

On the basis of the above, I re-iterate my request for an internal review.

I believe that, following the internal review, you should decide to provide answers to the FOI requests within My Correspondence, on the grounds that:

- you have failed to provide cogent evidence to support your refusal to answer my FOI requests;

- it is neither reasonable, nor sensible, nor realistic that the London Borough of Haringey should fail to provide responses to my FOI requests where the London Boroughs of Bexley, Kingston-upon-Thames, Lambeth, Sutton and Wandsworth have been able to do so; and:

- you should treat My Correspondence as eight separate requests within one piece of correspondence, which should bring individual costs estimates down to an acceptable level.

Should you disagree with the points raised above, I look forward to receiving your reasons for such disagreement.

If relevant, I also look forward to receiving your advice and assistance regarding what proportion of the FOI requests within My Correspondence you will be able to answer within the appropriate limit, and/or regarding how I might re-formulate my FOI requests so as to stay within the appropriate limit.

I do note that you conclude your letter by offering to advise on alternative approaches if you better understand my reasons for wanting this information. I am more than happy to give you those reasons.

I am concerned by the growing levels of homelessness in this city, and I am aware that many buildings stand empty for much of the time. In contrast to the usual political rhetoric on the ‘housing crisis’, which portrays the problem as being due to a lack of housing supply, it strikes me that the supply of buildings in this country is plentiful but that many of those buildings simply go unused. I cannot help thinking that, if even a small proportion of those buildings were put to use as homeless shelters, we could end street homelessness overnight – and the figures I have received from the London Boroughs of Bexley, Kingston-upon-Thames, Lambeth, Sutton and Wandsworth have only served to confirm this viewpoint.

I wish to collect data from London Borough Councils in order to make public the scale of this issue. I wish to compare the figures for empty buildings with those for street homelessness and to show that the number of empty buildings in this city far exceeds the number of rough sleepers. I feel this information could feed in to political debate about the ‘housing crisis’ and lead to policy measures that could reduce or eliminate homelessness in London.

I further note your comments on the pressure public sector organisations are under to make huge cuts, and I sympathise with the difficulties you and your organisation must be facing in this regard. I cannot help thinking that a large part of the reason for such pressure is due to tax avoidance. If taxes were not avoided, more funds would be available for public sector organisations such as yours, and you would be under less pressure. Given that it is organisations like yours that should be helping the homeless, but are presumably underfunded and overworked to an extent where you are not able to do so effectively, I have focused my FOI requests on tax avoidance in order to highlight this aspect of the ‘housing crisis’ too.

I wish to make sufficient data public so as to be able to suggest that landowners keeping land empty, which could otherwise be used for housing or other socially useful activities, through tax avoidance schemes like rates-saving leases, which deprive local authorities such as yours of the funds you might use to mitigate homelessness, is a problematic issue worthy of discussion and policy response in the context of the ‘housing crisis’. In this regard, if I may be so bold, it may be in the interests of both myself and your organisation, as well as the homeless population of London more generally, to provide responses to at least some of my FOI requests.

Yours faithfully,

L Jones

Pietikainen Sirkku, Haringey Borough Council

Dear  L Jones,

 

Internal Review regarding Freedom of Information request reference
LBH/7098918

 

Thank you for email received on 9 April 2018.

 

Your request for an Internal Review has been logged with the reference
LBH/7249918. Please quote this reference number on any further
correspondence.

 

We will now review the response you have been sent to the above request
and I aim to let you know the outcome of our investigation by 8 May 2018.
If I need longer, I will write to let you know the reason and when you can
expect a full reply.

 

If you have any questions, please let me know. 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Sirkku Pietikäinen

Information Governance Officer

Shared Service Centre | Central Team

 

Haringey Council

5th Floor, Alexandra House, 10 Station Road, Wood Green, London N22 7TR

 

T. 020 8489 2552

[1][email address]

 

[2]www.haringey.gov.uk

[3]twitter@haringeycouncil

[4]facebook.com/haringeycouncil

 

Please consider the environment before printing this email.

 

 

 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Pietikainen Sirkku, Haringey Borough Council

Dear  L Jones,

 

Internal Review regarding Freedom of Information request reference
LBH/7098918

 

I apologise for the delay in responding to you.

 

We are currently trying to establish whether we can provide you the
information requested under the appropriate limit of  18 hours /£450.

 

We apologise that there will be a delay in responding to your request. We
now expect to respond to you by 18.05.2018.

 

 

Regards,

 

Sirkku Pietikäinen

Information Governance Officer

Shared Service Centre | Central Team

 

Haringey Council

4th Floor River Park House, 225 High Road, London N22 8HQ

 

T. 020 8489 2552

[1][email address]

 

[2]www.haringey.gov.uk

[3]twitter@haringeycouncil

[4]facebook.com/haringeycouncil

 

Please consider the environment before printing this email.

 

 

 

 

From: Pietikainen Sirkku
Sent: 09 April 2018 11:06
To: '[FOI #465298 email]'
<[FOI #465298 email]>
Subject: FOI Internal review- Lbh/7249918 Jones

 

Dear  L Jones,

 

Internal Review regarding Freedom of Information request reference
LBH/7098918

 

Thank you for email received on 9 April 2018.

 

Your request for an Internal Review has been logged with the reference
LBH/7249918. Please quote this reference number on any further
correspondence.

 

We will now review the response you have been sent to the above request
and I aim to let you know the outcome of our investigation by 8 May 2018.
If I need longer, I will write to let you know the reason and when you can
expect a full reply.

 

If you have any questions, please let me know. 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Sirkku Pietikäinen

Information Governance Officer

Shared Service Centre | Central Team

 

Haringey Council

5th Floor, Alexandra House, 10 Station Road, Wood Green, London N22 7TR

 

T. 020 8489 2552

[5][email address]

 

[6]www.haringey.gov.uk

[7]twitter@haringeycouncil

[8]facebook.com/haringeycouncil

 

Please consider the environment before printing this email.

 

 

 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Pietikainen Sirkku, Haringey Borough Council

2 Atodiad

Dear  L Jones,

 

Please see attached our response to your FOI complaint/ request for an
Internal Review.

 

Regards,

 

Sirkku Pietikäinen

Information Governance Officer

Shared Service Centre | Central Team

 

Haringey Council

4th Floor River Park House, 225 High Road, London N22 8HQ

 

T. 020 8489 2552

[1][email address]

 

[2]www.haringey.gov.uk

[3]twitter@haringeycouncil

[4]facebook.com/haringeycouncil

 

Please consider the environment before printing this email.

 

 

 

This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential, may be
subject to legal privilege and are intended only for the person(s) or
organisation(s) to whom this email is addressed. Any unauthorised use,
retention, distribution, copying or disclosure is strictly prohibited. If
you have received this email in error, please notify the system
administrator at Haringey Council immediately and delete this e-mail from
your system. Although this e-mail and any attachments are believed to be
free of any virus or other defect which might affect any computer or
system into which they are received and opened, it is the responsibility
of the recipient to ensure they are virus free and no responsibility is
accepted for any loss or damage from receipt or use thereof. All
communications sent to or from external third party organisations may be
subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant
legislation.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.haringey.gov.uk/
3. https://twitter.com/haringeycouncil
4. https://www.facebook.com/haringeycouncil

Nid ydym yn gwybod a yw'r ymateb mwyaf diweddar i'r cais hwn yn cynnwys gwybodaeth neuai peidio - os chi ywL Jones mewngofnodwch a gadael i bawb wybod.