Dear Valuation Office Agency,

I note from a previous request that the VOA recognises a body known as 'Wigan Council' as the Billing Authority for the Borough of Wigan. Unfortunately this does not parry with a number of recent telephone calls I made to your Manchester Office where the staff commenced by being vague and then became rude and ultimately kept hanging up the phone on me for politely asking who the Billing Authority is for the Borough of Wigan. I was, however advised variously that it was "Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council", "Wigan Billing Authority", "The Borough Council", and "Wigan Council". I tried to draw their attention to the fact that previously I had confirmed from the Valuation Tribunal that they recognise the Billing Authority for the Borough of Wigan as being 'Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council'. I was refused confirmation of this seeemingly simple information in writing by your staff in the Manchester Office, even as I informed them I required this as evidence for a criminal case. My own measured opinion from these communications was that the VOA in Manchester were as confused as I am but declined to admit it, with some senior member of staff calling herself Rachel ultimately slamming the phone down on me and refusing to speak with me any further. I have written to the VOA office in Manchester on three occassions seeking this information but have yet to have a reply. I think this speaks for itself re customer service and the VOA...

Please be advised that despite numerous attempts, the body calling itself 'Wigan Council' refuses to identify to me or my team of community investigators how it is constituted and where it draws its alleged authority. They recently withdrew from a criminal case where this was raised as a defence. This leads me to question if and how they have identified themselves to the VOA, given that you seem confident they are the legal Billing Authority?

Hopefuly, now having your undivided attention the VOA will respond truthfully and factually and completely to the following requests:

1.
I require from the VOA a true and factual list of all and any bodies claiming to represent the Borough of Wigan and the Council Tax issues of the people of Wigan District for the past 6 years. This will include acting as the 'Billing Authority' for the borough. In providing this information I would strongly suggest that you refer to your financial and other records and list ALL the names of bodies acting as an authority that you have dealt with in matters relating to the Borough of Wigan and its council tax levy. This will include all and any connection with Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

As this will soon be used as evidence in a criminal prosecution for fraud I would suggest that your information is complete and accurate as I plan to call the VOA as a witness.

2.
I will also require copies of the actual investigative documents/reports whereby VOA has formally established the identity and actual legal capacity of those body(s) presenting themselves as the Billing Authority for the Borough of Wigan and the people of Wigan District. This would be standard anti-fraud and anti-money-laundering procedures for any competent organisation. Given you FOI response to a member of our team I would presume you will have no problem providing the document/report by which the VOA established Wigan Council as the Billing Authority for the Borough of Wigan?

3.
I would presume this standard due diligence process would need to comply with a quality assurance manual or other such formal procedure so I will also require a copy of that maunal/procedures by which VOA satisfies itself that you are dealing with the correct body and that body is licenced or franchised as the Billing Authority. I will require copies of the sections of relevant procedures/manual you have employed going back 6 years.

Yours faithfully,

R Austin
Dignity Alliance

Freedom Of Information, Valuation Office Agency

Dear R Austin,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request which was received in the Valuation Office Agency on Saturday 19 April.

The reference number for your request is 11764383.1/CEO and you will receive a reply by the 21 May 2014.

Yours sincerely

Lee Ward | Disclosure Officer | Knowledge and Information Management (KIM) | Information and Analysis Directorate

Valuation Office Agency (VOA) | 6th floor | Wingate House | 93/107 Shaftesbury Avenue | London | W1D 5BU

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Freedom Of Information, Valuation Office Agency

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Austin,

 

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request to the Valuation Office
Agency. Please find attached our reply. I apologise for the delay in
replying.

 

Yours sincerely

 

On behalf of Thomas Lindie

This message is confidential and the information must not be used, disclosed, or
copied to any other person who is not entitled to receive it. If you have
received this message in error please notify the sender and then delete it.

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

Dear Valuation Office Agency,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Valuation Office Agency's handling of my FOI request 'Billing Authority'.

In your response, dated 22nd May 2014, I did not receive the information or only received part of the information required.

Item 1:

I had asked for specific information regarding information held by the VOA. Your response deliberately avoided answering a simple question directly and instead wasted ink discussing matters I had not asked for.

Item 2:

This response again avoided answering a simple question that requires a supposedly public body confirming who and what they are. This is not a private company as cited in the CRCA 2005 but is asking about information you hold on a supposedly public body. The precedent you are relying upon to dodge answering a valid public interest request is an extremely dangerous one and actually contradicts the principles established by the Committee On Standards In Public Life

http://www.public-standards.gov.uk/

Is the VOA exempt complying with these most basic principles of public standards? This is not acceptable in an open democratic country where our public services and officials should be transparent, open and accountable.

Further, your insistence that a local or billing authority is a 'person' and therefore is exempt simple requests for public information is an appalling abuse of power and legislation. This information is held by the VOA and I can see no legitimate reason why you would refuse to identify the legal identities and capacities, and provide copies of your corporate due diligence.

This abuse of power and privilege is yet another example why public confidence in supposedly open and public services is at a critically low level. It would have taken less time to just provide the information requested than to waste public money obfuscating me.

I require an Internal Review as it is in the public interest that VOA provide information on a public body that should be freely available to the public.

I also require an internal review as this secrecy and subterfuge can only be seen by a reasonable man or woman as highly suspicious behaviour.

An internal review should address not only the seven priciples of public life, but also a gross abuse of power and how this response reflects on the VOA and HMRC. This FOIR was not satisfactory and I expect an internal review by an independent reviewer to explain why a local or billing authority, acting in a public capacity, is somehow given more access to privacy than a real human person. Note your response will be a matter of public record and will be judged by the public.

I note in the response that you include the title 'Mr' in your salutation. I am not a Mister and the use of this salutation is offensive to me. Please just identity me in your response as 'R Austin'.

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,

R Austin
Senior Advocate
Dignity Alliance

Freedom Of Information, Valuation Office Agency

Dear R Austin
Thank you for your request for an internal review of the Valuation Office Agency's handling of your request for information about a named Billing Authority.

Kind regards

Peter Hallworth
For the Valuation Office Agency (VOA)

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R Austin left an annotation ()

Thank you Peter. Can you please identify your role and job title within VOA as you have omitted this from your response?

Freedom Of Information, Valuation Office Agency

1 Attachment

Dear R Austin,

 

Thank you for your request of 2 June 2014 asking for the Valuation Office
Agency to reconsider our response to your Freedom of Information request.

 

Please find attached our reply.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Lee Ward | Disclosure Officer | Knowledge and Information Management (KIM)
| Information and Analysis Directorate

Valuation Office Agency (VOA) | 6th floor | Wingate House | 93/107
Shaftesbury Avenue | London | W1D 5BU

 

This message is confidential and the information must not be used, disclosed, or
copied to any other person who is not entitled to receive it. If you have
received this message in error please notify the sender and then delete it.

show quoted sections

Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

R Austin left an annotation ()

Can you please explain what GSi is as it would appear to have some legal significance applying to this FOIR and I am ignorant of whatever it is? Thanks.

Edna Reed left an annotation ()

I am astounded by the sheer level of deceit and what appears to be collusion between public agencies to cover up wrong doing, in all my years I have never seen such a web of lies, I have no confidence left in any of our public institutions, it truly is a sad day.

R Austin left an annotation ()

Complaint is now with the ICO. The Billing Authority would lose its alleged right to privacy when they submit complaints to a Justice and then prosecute claims for non-payment. I submit the VOA using the DPAct to avoid answering a request for information is abuse of power and contrary to the intent of the DPAct. I will post the outcome from the ICO investigation.

I am with-holding Council Tax until I am satisfied as to the legal identity and capacity of the "council" making demands upon this household. Everyone in Wigan Borough would be advised to do the same. Caveat Emptor!

Edna Reed left an annotation ()

I do applaud your efforts R Austin and I will be withholding my Council Tax until I read a satisfactory answer to the questions you have posed. It is disgusting the way the Freedom of Information Act is being abused in this matter to cover up what one could quite rightly refer to as criminal activity. If the Valuation Office Agency will not reveal the identity of the Billing Authority, how can members of the public check to ensure they are dealing with the correct entity? They are making it impossible for the people of the borough of Wigan to pay their Council Tax as no one know who to pay, this is just crazy!

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