Complete Non-Residential / Business Property Rates Data (Section 31, Q2 2018)

The request was refused by Enfield Council.

Dear Enfield Council,

In terms of the Freedom of Information Act of 2000, and subject to section 40(2) on excluding personal data, 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 Property Reference Code (linking the property to the VOA database reference)
- 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)

If you are unable to provide an absolute “Occupation / Vacancy” status, please provide the Exemptions and / or Reliefs that a particular property may be receiving.

Let me state this clearly: I recognise that you ordinarily refuse to release these data. For the last two years I have been pursuing refusals before the Information Commissioner. To date, I have received fifteen decisions in my favour:

FS50628943 vs Cornwall Council; citing Section 31(1)(a);
FS50628978 vs London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council; citing Section 31(1)(a);
FS50681246 vs London Borough of Camden; citing Section 31(1)(a);
FS50681250 vs London Borough of Greenwich; citing Section 31(1)(a) and Section 38(1)(b);
FS50681266 vs Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames Borough; citing Section 31(1)(a);
FS50681283 vs Westminster City Council who cited Section 31(1)(a);
FS50681292 vs London Borough of Wandsworth; citing Section 31(1)(a);
FS50681297 vs Knowsley Metropolitan Borough; citing Section 31(1)(a), 40(2), and 41;
FS50681322 vs West Berkshire Council; citing Section 31(1)(d);
FS50681326 vs Vale of Glamorgan; citing Section 31(1)(a);
FS50681332 vs Doncaster Metropolitan Borough; citing Section 31(1)(a);
FS50681336 vs Sheffield City Council; citing Section 31(1)(a), 31(1)(d), and 41;
FS50685343 vs London Borough of Ealing; citing Section 31(1)(a), 31(1)(d), and 31(2);
FS50685350 vs Liverpool City Council; citing Section 31(1)(a);
FS50685375 vs West Lancashire Borough Council; citing 31(1)(a);

In each of these decisions, the Commissioner either dismissed the application of the exemptions cited, or declared that “the public interest in the information being disclosed outweighs that in the exemption being maintained”.

92% of local authorities now publish commercial vacancy data. 65% publish these as regular updates to their authority websites or open data services.

I am determined to secure 100% publication and your continued refusal wastes both your and my time and money. Any delay or refusal on your part will be referred to ICO for a decision.

Please provide these data as machine-readable as either a CSV or Microsoft Excel file, capable of re-use, and under terms of the Open Government Licence (meaning reuse for any and all purposes, including commercial).

Yours faithfully,

Gavin Chait

complaintsandinformation, Enfield Council

Thank you for your email.

We will respond as soon as possible.

Regards,

Complaints and Access to Information Team,
Enfield Council.

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complaintsandinformation, Enfield Council

Classification: OFFICIAL

Dear Mr Chait

 

Thank you for making a request for information to the London Borough of
Enfield.

 

We are aiming to respond to your request within 20 working days and will
let you know if we hold the information you requested and whether or not
we can release it under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

We are now making an initial assessment of your request and we will
contact you if any clarification is needed.

 

If you have any queries regarding your request, please contact us at
[Enfield Council request email] quoting your reference CRM FOI
3840

 

Regards,

 

Complaints and Access to Information Team

 

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Dear Enfield Council,

My request of 9 April (https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...) is now overdue. Please could you advise of when you intend to provide the data as requested?

Yours faithfully,

Gavin Chait

Simon Ranyard, Enfield Council

Dear Mr Chait

 

Thank you for your freedom of information request below.  I am sorry for
the delay.

 

I would stress the point that I have read all the comments in your email,
however the information you seek is already available and any additional
information sought will not be provided.    

 

Having looked at our previous refusals you will note the importance that
we put on taxpayer confidentiality and although it may be inconvenient for
your specific purposes it remains the case that our Business Rates records
are solely held for the purpose of collecting a tax.

 

That said we took the decision to publish a list of companies in the
Borough and this information is available to all.  You have already
alluded to the importance of personal data so I will not repeat this here.
 

 

It remains the case that the Rating List has always been the document that
is in the public domain, this is readily available by other means (and is
published by the Valuation Office). 

 

However as part of the councils Publication scheme we do now publish a
list of companies in the borough and this will include some of the
information you have requested.  

 

This can be found here :

 

[1]https://new.enfield.gov.uk/contact-us/as...

 

Your request states ,”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”

 

This has now been fulfilled.

 

You ask for the additional fields

 

1.      Billing Authority Property Reference Code (linking the property to
the VOA database reference)

2.      Firm's Trading Name (i.e. property occupant)

3.      Full Property Address (Number, Street, Postal Code, Town)

4.      Occupied / Vacant

5.      Date of Occupation / Vacancy

6.      Actual annual rates charged (in Pounds)

 

So to address your detailed points individually;

 

Billing Authority Property Reference Code (linking the property to the VOA
database reference) -  This has been Fulfilled on the dataset published.

 

Firm's Trading Name (i.e. property occupant) – Simply we do not hold this
data.  You specifically ask for the firms trading name which we do not
hold.   However you expand on this in brackets, but this is actually
something else entirely as you ask for the property occupant.  In any
event this has now been supplied in our publication scheme – assuming the
occupant is not covered by GDPR being an absolute exemption.

 

Full Property Address (Number, Street, Postal Code, Town) - Fulfilled.
Both on the Voa website and our website.

 

Occupied / Vacant.  This is not information we will release and this
information continues to be exempt under Section 31 of the Act. For the
sake of clarity we will not release information concerning vacant property
or land. 

  

I am happy to provide the  quantum  of properties that are currently
recorded as empty  (or more general statistics) but this is a dynamic
situation due the high level of demand for property and as a rough guide
at any point it is around 10%. 

 

Section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act in this Authority’s view
applies to this request.  This section provides that information is exempt
from disclosure if such disclosure would prejudice the “prevention or
detection of crime”.   Putting the addresses of empty properties
(residential or otherwise) within the Borough into the public domain would
in the Authority’s view compromise the security of the buildings concerned
and would prejudice the objectives of preventing criminal behaviour.  We
consider there is a significant risk that releasing details of empty
properties might lead to burglary, arson or squatting.  Within the borough
there have been occasions recently when fires have been set in empty
properties.   In relation to domestic and commercial empty properties,
there is also known use of such empty properties to commit benefit fraud,
identity fraud and money laundering.

 

We have consulted with other Boroughs who have also received similar
requests, we have been advised that concerns have also been expressed by
the Metropolitan Police.  These concerns indicate that release of the
information sought would in the police’s view increase the potential for
the properties to be targeted by squatters, by criminals or terrorists
intent on hiding or depositing proceeds of crime or terrorist materials. 
There is also the potential for premises to be identified as short-term
hiding places by criminals or terrorists.  We have consulted our local
police and they have confirmed the number of incidents of crimes carried
out on empty properties, and their view is that disclosing this
information would prejudice the prevention of crime.

 

These incidents would support the concerns the Authority has as to the
prejudice to the prevention of crime in the borough if the information
were disclosed.  The Act does not allow the Council to enquire as to
motives, nor do we have any control over distribution of the information
once it is released into the public domain.  Making it available to you
effectively makes it available to all.

 

Section 31 is a qualified exemption to which the public interest test must
be applied. There do not appear to be any obvious public interest
considerations that would weigh in favour of disclosure beyond that
wherever possible it is in the public interest for them to have access to
information.  There is however in our view clear public interest
considerations that weigh in favour of not disclosing the information
since to do so would prejudice the objective of prevention of crime which
is of course in everyone’s interests.  Having considered whether the
public interest weighs in favour of disclosure or non-disclosure in this
instance the Authority has decided that it is not in the public interest
to release such information. 

 

We look forward to any challenge on this as it is not in the interests of
the Council Tax payers of this borough (or the wider public interest) to
release this information, and we would be in breach of our fiduciary duty
do so. 

 

It should not be noted that you could obtain information about empty
property in the Borough as most of the information you seek is already in
the public domain.  The Council has a portfolio of empty property, some is
available for let and our agents Spencer Craig  handle the Councils
commercial lets.   You can contact these agents for a list of empty
property.  These properties will have been professionally secured and are
monitored.  Other Estate Agents will also have a list of empty property. 
  To simply give a list of all empty property would be highly
irresponsible.

 

Date of Occupation / Vacancy -  Clearly it follows that this linked
information will not be provided.  However it should be noted that at the
next update of the register that appears in our publication scheme
(quarterly) the liability start date will be available again.

 

Actual annual rates charged (in Pounds)  The rateable value is published,
so this is fulfilled. 

 

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your
request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision,
you should email:  [2][email address]

 

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply
directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the
ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints
procedure provided by the Authority. The Information Commissioner can be
contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water
Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.  Or Email: [3][email address]

 

Kind regards

 

Simon Ranyard

Ndr & Inspection Team Leader

Revenues and Benefits

Enfield Council

Silver Street

Enfield

EN1 3XY

 

Tel: + 44 (0)20 8379 4766

[4][email address]

 

"Enfield Council is committed to serving the whole borough fairly,
delivering excellent services and building strong communities."

 

 

 

 

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Dear Simon Ranyard,

Thank you for your detailed response. Ordinarily, given yours is a Section 31 refusal, I would refer this directly to ICO for a ruling. However, a Section 31 appeal is currently directly before the Tribunal and - after discussion with ICO - it is felt we should wait on clarification from the court.

My response therefore serves as an indication that I will be pursuing this further, but that this will be delayed until such time as the Tribunal has ruled.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin Chait

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