Dear City of London Corporation,

I understand that your council regularly publishes information on business/non-domestic rated properties, However recent datasets do not confirm whether properties in your area are subject to Retail Relief/Discount.
We therefore request a list detailing all current Rateable Value assessments and which accounts are, and which are not, subject to some form rate relief (eg. Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR), charitable, empty relief, retail relief). Please include the following columns insofar as possible.
• Full Postal Address
• Rating Description (e.g. offices, workshop etc.)
• Correspondence Address (if different from Full Postal Address)
• Account Name
• Account No./Ref.
• Property Ref
• RV 2017
• RV 2010
• SBRR (discount, not multiplier) – yes or no
• Retail Relief/Discount – yes or no
• Vacant – yes or no
• Other relief (e.g. charity, hardship, rural, community & amateur sports clubs etc.) – yes or no
• Current liability start date

Yours faithfully,

Tom Snowdon

COL-EB-InformationOfficer, City of London Corporation

Dear Tom Snowdon,

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 (FOIA) – REQUEST FOR INFORMATION

The City of London (CoL) acknowledges receipt of your request for information of 6 January 2020.

Public authorities are required to respond to requests within the statutory timescale of 20 working days beginning from the first working day after they receive a request. The Act does not always require public authorities to disclose the information which they hold.

The FOIA applies to the CoL as a local authority, police authority and port health authority. The CoL is the local and police authority for the “Square Mile”, ie the historic City of London, and not for London as a whole. Please see the following page containing a link to a map (‘Explore the City’), which shows the local authority area covered by the CoL:
https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/maps/Pag....

The CoL does have some functions, including Port Health Authority functions, which extend beyond the City boundary. For further information please see: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk.

Yours sincerely,

Information Officer
Comptroller & City Solicitor’s Department
City of London
Tel: 020-7332 1243
www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

show quoted sections

CityBusinessRates, City of London Corporation

1 Attachment

 

Dear Mr Snowdon

 

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 (FOIA) - REQUEST FOR INFORMATION

 

Following your request of 6^th January 2020 and our acknowledgement, the
City of London (CoL) responds as follows:

 

After a review and consideration of recent Information Commissioner
decisions the CoL has determined the FOIA section 31 and 41 exemptions are
engaged in respect of the National Non-Domestic Rates (NNDR) information
we hold and falling within the scope of your request.  This letter acts as
a Refusal Notice under the FOIA.

 

Regarding the application of the relevant exemptions, the CoL considers
that the arguments made and accepted by the Tribunal in EA/2018/003 are
equally applicable to the NNDR information held by the CoL. The CoL’s
current systems and processes reflect those of the City of Westminster.
These systems and processes were considered by the Tribunal in upholding
the City of Westminster’s decision to refuse disclosure of the NNDR
information the subject of that appeal.

 

In this case:

 

This decision made under Section 31(1)(a) of the FOIA relates to
information the disclosure of which would be likely to prejudice the
prevention or detection of crime, in particular it is considered that
there is a serious prejudice to the prevention of fraud, particularly as a
disclosure of information in response to an FOIA is effectively a
disclosure to the “world at large”. It should be noted that the FOIA does
not allow CoL to enquire as to the FOIA requestor’s motives, nor do we
have any control over distribution of the information once it is
“released” into the public domain.

 

CoL holds detailed financial information relating to the NNDR account
holders and by disclosing the requested data for each account, CoL is
opening itself up to fraudulent activity. When dealing with enquiries
about a particular account, COL current systems provide limited but
effective ways of ensuring that the person who contacts COL is actually
authorised to discuss and deal with the account. By disclosing the
requested information in response to this FOA request, a malefactor could
bypass the security systems which are in place and convince the authority
that they were the ratepayer given that we use the requested data as part
of our security checks. It would also facilitate a fraudster posing as the
authority to obtain confidential information from ratepayers themselves.

 

The cost of fraud perpetrated against CoL will fall as a cost to CoL and
ultimately a cost to all of our ratepayers.  It is therefore CoL’s view
that Section 31(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act is engaged.

 

Section 31 is a qualified exemption to which the public interest test must
be applied.  There is no public interest in eroding the security framework
which has been adopted to protect the authority, and ratepayers, against
fraud in the exercise of its functions as a rating authority. There are
clear public interest considerations that weigh in favour of not
disclosing the requested information, as to do so would prejudice the
objective of prevention of crime and is likely to increase the burden on
the public purse. It is considered that these factors significantly
outweigh the benefits of disclosure.

 

CoL also withholds the information in accordance with Section 41
(Information provided in confidence) as this exemption applies to
information requested.  Information is exempt if:

 

 a. It was obtained by the public authority from any other person
(including another public authority), and
 b. The disclosure of the information to the public (otherwise than under
this Act) by the public authority holding it would constitute a breach
of confidence actionable by that or any other persons.

 

There is a general common law principle of taxpayer confidentiality (R
(Ingenious Media Holdings plc and another) v Revenue and Customs
Commissioners [2016] UKSC 54, paragraph 17:  ‘where information of a
personal or confidential nature is obtained or received in the exercise of
a legal power or in furtherance of a public duty the recipient will in
general ow a duty to the person from who it was received or to who it
relates not to use it for other purposes.’ 

 

The Tribunal in EA/2018/003 accepted that the statutory bar on disclosure
that applies to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), and informs what
information is published by the VOA, assists in determining whether or not
NNDR information is of the type that is protect by the law of confidence. 
As upheld by the Tribunal in that case, we consider that the information
provided to a local authority for the purposes of calculating rates or
reliefs is information that a reasonable person would regard as
confidential and we consider the requested information to carry the
necessary obligation of confidence.  This is an absolute exemption and
there are no compelling public interest grounds which would outweigh the
importance of the general common law principle of taxpayer
confidentiality.

 

If you wish to make a complaint about the way the CoL has managed your
enquiry, please use the following link to the CoL’s FOIA complaints
procedure:  www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Feedback, at the end of which is
located the FOIA complaints procedure. If, having used the CoL’s FOIA
Complaints Procedure, you are still dissatisfied, you may request the
Information Commissioner to investigate. Please contact: Information
Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.
Telephone: (01625) 545700.  Website: http://www.ico.org.uk/.

 

The FOIA applies to the CoL as a local authority, police authority and
port health authority. Subject to any other statutory provisions requiring
the CoL to disclose information, release of information outside the scope
of the FOIA is subject to the discretion of the CoL.

 

The CoL holds the copyright in this communication. Its supply does not
give a right to re-use in a way that would infringe that copyright, for
example, by making copies, publishing and issuing copies to the public or
to any other person. Brief extracts of any of the material may be
reproduced under the fair dealing provisions of the Copyright, Designs and
Patents Act 1988 (sections 29 and 30) for the purposes of research for
non-commercial purposes, private study, criticism, review and news
reporting, subject to an acknowledgement of the copyright owner.

 

Yours sincerely,

þ

 

Head of Revenues

City of London Corporation

 

[1]cid:image001.png@01D42F01.2FF42830 Chamberlain’s Department

3^rd Floor North Wing, Guildhall,
London EC2P 2EJ

 

 

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Opinions, advice or facts included in this message are given without any
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