Complete Non-Residential / Business Property Rates Data (Q4 2020)

Gavin Chait made this Freedom of Information request to Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council as part of a batch sent to 63 authorities

Automatic anti-spam measures are in place for this older request. Please let us know if a further response is expected or if you are having trouble responding.

The request was refused by Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council.

Dear Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council,

In terms of the Freedom of Information Act of 2000, and subject to section 40(2) on personal data, could you please provide me with your local authority’s complete and most-recently updated list of all business (non-residential) property rates data, including the following fields:

- Billing Authority Property Reference Code (linking the property to the public VOA database reference)
- Firm's Trading Name (i.e. property occupant or ratepayer)
- Full Property Address (Number, Street, Postal Code, Town)
- Occupation / Vacancy status
- Date of Occupation / Vacancy
- Actual annual rates charged (in Pounds) and/or categories of reliefs/exemptions granted

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.

NOTE: While FOIs are meant to be requestor blind, these data are actively used by national government and UK universities to inform the economic response to COVID-19. Commercial ratepayer data are always of public interest but, in the midst of a global pandemic and its consequent devastating economic fallout, these data are vital to track business behaviour and guide government and enterprise adaptation to the social impact of COVID-19. Please publish quickly so that organisations trying to support your local authority can do so, and, if you have any difficulties, please contact me so that I may help.

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 (reuse for any and all purposes, including commercial).

I last requested these data three months ago, and this is a request for your latest updated dataset.

Yours faithfully,

Gavin Chait

FoI Request, Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Chait
FOI 11423
I am emailing to confirm the receipt of your recent request for
information to Wigan Council. This has been logged with reference
indicated above and will be forwarded to the relevant department for
action.
We will respond as soon as possible and in most cases no later than 20
working days after the receipt of your request i.e. by 10 February 2021.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has recognised the unprecedented
challenges all are facing during the pandemic and that people may
experience delays when making information rights requests during the
current situation.  This is because the Council’s resources are focused on
ensuring that at risk and vulnerable residents are supported at this time.
 
If you have any comments or questions in the meantime, please direct them
to [1][Wigan Council request email], or in writing to the address below.
The Council does not charge for most FOI requests, but charges may be made
for actual disbursements incurred such as photocopying, printing, postage
and packaging, and only if these charges amount to more than £20.00. If a
charge is to be made, confirmation of the payment due will be given before
the information is provided and payment may be requested prior to the
provision of the information.
Kind regards
Kath Peace
Information Governance Assistant
 
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frontline services.
 
Legal Services - Resources Directorate
Wigan Council
Town Hall, Library Street
Wigan WN1 1YN
 
01942 828794
 
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FoI Request, Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Chait,

I am writing to respond to your recent request for information. This request has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The response to your request is attached.

If you are unhappy with any aspect of this response, an independent senior officer will review this decision. If you are not satisfied with our response you must put your complaint in writing within 40 working days of receipt of this response giving the reasons for your complaint. You can either email [Wigan Council request email] or write to the address below.

You can also complain to the Information Commissioner, who is the regulator for Freedom of Information. Her website is https://ico.org.uk/ and her helpline number is 0303 1231113.
Her staff may ask you to exhaust our internal complaints procedure if you choose to complain to her office now.

Kind regards

Graham Donelan
Information Governance Officer

Please note that in light of Government guidance all Legal Services staff are currently working from home. We have a skeleton staff attending the office, by exception and only where absolutely necessary. Wherever possible, please avoid posting documents to us and use electronic communication instead. If you must post a hard copy document, please email the recipient, so we can arrange for post to be collected. We do not currently accept service of any documents by DX.

In these exceptional times please note our response times to correspondences may increase as we continue to support the most vulnerable in society and our frontline services.

Wigan Council
Legal Services – Resources Directorate
Town Hall,
Library Street,
Wigan,
WN1 1YN
01942 827639 (internal ext 2639)
[mobile number]
www.wigan.gov.uk
www.twitter.com/wigancouncil
www.facebook.com/WiganCouncilOnline

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Dear Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Complete Non-Residential / Business Property Rates Data (Q4 2020)'.

On January 13, 2021, I sent an FOI request in terms of the Freedom of Information Act of 2000, and subject to section 40(2) on personal data, for 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 or ratepayer)
- Full Property Address (Number, Street, Postal Code, Town)
- Occupation / Vacancy status
- Date of Occupation / Vacancy
- Actual annual rates charged (in Pounds) or categories of reliefs/exemptions granted

My request has been refused in terms of Section 41.

According to the Information Commissioner's Office, "Section 41 applies to information that has been obtained from another person and whose disclosure to the public would constitute an actionable breach of confidence."

Please could you specify precisely which data you refuse to release, and under what terms you consider this to be in confidence (i.e. in what way are you bound by the non-commercial ratepayer to hold these data in confidence).

From my perspective, none of these data can be considered to be in confidence:

- Billing Authority Reference Code: already public, used by the Valuations Office to permit cross-referencing of their data to that of local authorities; it is already published in public;
- Firm’s Trading Name: already published via Companies House for all registered companies, and often published in advertising materials by businesses themselves;
- Full property address: already published by numerous agencies, including the VOA;
- State of Occupation: visible to anyone walking past the property, and collected manually by commercial services like Local Data Company; this is also advertised when properties are placed on the market (i.e. no tenant is affected if there is no tenant), or when existing tenants advertise their services;
- Date of Occupation / Vacancy: as with state of occupation;
- Actual annual rates charged: commercial data relevant to the operation of the local authority, and critical to understanding local authority revenue collection;

Simply be way of illustration, here are several links where entire business databases are publicly presented (i.e. openly accessible) which contain details of commercial business data, including addresses, names of tenants and from where dates of occupation are presented, or may be derived based on the date of such data being added or updated into these databases:

- Valuations Office Authority publishes a regularly-updated schedule of all ratepayers and valuations at https://voaratinglists.blob.core.windows... including addresses and billing-authority reference numbers. This also includes a data schedule which - while not complete - contains a significant proportion of names of ratepayers and dates of occupation;
- Yelp.com has an API for their database of businesses permitting complete access and interrogation of their comprehensive database of business information, available at https://www.yelp.com/developers;
- Companies House provides developer tools and search facilities on all company information in the UK, including address, company activity, and financial disclosure, https://www.gov.uk/get-information-about...
- And there are numerous other companies, such as Yell.com, 118118.com and so on which all provide aggregated data on businesses;

You do not state in your rejection what data in my request you regard as ‘in confidence’, and it is unclear how you have arrived at this conclusion.

The combination of these data permit us to reconcile your individual authority data with that of the Valuations Office and so create a single, unified database of commercial property vacancy across England and Wales, as well as the actual revenue raised from these commercial properties.

I should also note that, of the 349 local authorities in England and Wales, over 75% of these either already make these data available, or have done so in response to FOI requests from ourselves. Of those who have refused, only a handful have ever claimed that the data were collected ‘in confidence’.

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

FoI Request, Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Chait,

I acknowledge receipt of your request for a review of the Council's response to FOI 11423. I have passed this on for review and we will aim to respond as soon as possible and by 18th February 2021 at the latest.

Kind regards

Graham Donelan
Information Governance Officer

Please note that in light of Government guidance all Legal Services staff are currently working from home. We have a skeleton staff attending the office, by exception and only where absolutely necessary. Wherever possible, please avoid posting documents to us and use electronic communication instead. If you must post a hard copy document, please email the recipient, so we can arrange for post to be collected. We do not currently accept service of any documents by DX.

In these exceptional times please note our response times to correspondences may increase as we continue to support the most vulnerable in society and our frontline services.

Wigan Council
Legal Services – Resources Directorate
Town Hall,
Library Street,
Wigan,
WN1 1YN
01942 827639 (internal ext 2639)
[mobile number]
www.wigan.gov.uk
www.twitter.com/wigancouncil
www.facebook.com/WiganCouncilOnline

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FoI Request, Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Chait,

Please see attached a letter with the outcome of the Senior Officer Review of the Council's response to your request FOI 11423.

Kind regards

Graham Donelan
Information Governance Officer

Please note that in light of Government guidance all Legal Services staff are currently working from home. We have a skeleton staff attending the office, by exception and only where absolutely necessary. Wherever possible, please avoid posting documents to us and use electronic communication instead. If you must post a hard copy document, please email the recipient, so we can arrange for post to be collected. We do not currently accept service of any documents by DX.

In these exceptional times please note our response times to correspondences may increase as we continue to support the most vulnerable in society and our frontline services.

Wigan Council
Legal Services – Resources Directorate
Town Hall,
Library Street,
Wigan,
WN1 1YN
01942 827639 (internal ext 2639)
[mobile number]
www.wigan.gov.uk
www.twitter.com/wigancouncil
www.facebook.com/WiganCouncilOnline

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