Complete Non-Residential / Business Property Rates Data

Gavin Chait made this Freedom of Information request to Liverpool City 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.

The request was refused by Liverpool City Council.

Dear Liverpool City 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

Kevin Symm, Liverpool City Council

Information request
Our reference: 449687

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Kevin Symm, Liverpool City Council

2 Attachments

Please find attached response

Regards,

Kevin Symm I Senior Information Officer
Liverpool City Council I Cunard Building I Liverpool I L3 1DS
T: 0151 233 0418 I E: [1][email address]

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Dear Liverpool City Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Liverpool City 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(1)(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(1)(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.

Empty premises will be known to residents of the community in which they are based, or they are advertised as part of a lettings offer. In other words, these are properties of which many people will be clearly aware are empty whether the local authority data are publicly available or not.

In addition, I have run - in parallel with this request - a series of FOI requests to a sample of local authorities and to all police services across England and Wales requesting total number of incidents of criminal activity in empty commercial properties. Such data would permit easy comparison between areas that regularly disclose and those which choose not to in order to assess whether there is a greater risk as a result of disclosure.

To date, no local authorities or police services have produced such data and it appears that no such data are collected. The only data (very sparsely collected) by local authorities about incidents of crime in council-owned commercial premises indicates that no such crime is recorded, even in local authorities where details of empty properties are regularly published.

For the avoidance of doubt, I have requested such data from Merseyside Police (https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a...) but have yet to receive a formal response from them. If they are typical of other forces, they do not collect such data and so any opinion they may offer is not based on any quantitative analysis.

It is very difficult to substantiate a Section 31 refusal if you have no data to validate your concern. Of the 350 local authorities in England and Wales, more than 58% of these either already make empty property data available, or have done so in response to FOI requests from ourselves.

In other words, there is no substantive basis for concern that publishing a list of empty properties will lead to prejudice under Section 31.

In terms of Public Interest, 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.

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

Symm, Kevin, Liverpool City Council

Dear Mr Chait

Please accept this email as formal acknowledgement of your request for an internal review of our application of Section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000

This review will be conducted and its outcome communicated to you as soon as possible.

Regards,

Kevin Symm I Senior Information Officer
Liverpool City Council I Cunard Building I Liverpool I L3 1DS
T: 0151 233 0418 I E: [email address]
Postal address:
Liverpool City Council I Municipal Buildings I Dale Street I Liverpool I L2 2DH

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Kevin Symm, Liverpool City Council

1 Attachment

Please find attached response

Regards,

Kevin Symm I Senior Information Officer
Liverpool City Council I Cunard Building I Liverpool I L3 1DS
T: 0151 233 0418 I E: [1][email address]

show quoted sections

References

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1. mailto:[email address]