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

The request was refused by Westminster City Council.

Dear Westminster City 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 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.

We recognise that you ordinarily refuse to release these data in terms of Regulation 31(1)(a). In November 2016, we appealed this class of refusal - specifically as it relates to this request - to the Information Commissioner’s Office and they issued a Decision Notice (FS50628943 - https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak..., and FS50628978 - https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...) on 28 February 2017 finding that “it is not correct to withhold this information under Regulation 31(1)(a)”, and that “the public interest in the information being disclosed outweighs that in the exemption being maintained”.

Note that these Decision Notices supersede Voyias v Information Commissioner and London Borough of Camden Council (EA/2011/0007) and Decision Notice FS50538789 (related to Stoke on Trent Council).

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'm sure you get many requests for business rates and we intend to update this national series every three months. Could we request that - as more than 30% of local authorities already do - you update and release this dataset via a dedicated page on your local authority website or on an open data service. You should find that this reduces the time and cost of this request process.

Yours faithfully,

Gavin Chait

C Barnard, Westminster City Council

Information request
Our reference: 3465133

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Dear Mr Chait
 
Thank you for contacting Westminster City Council's Knowledge &
Information Management Team. 

Your query will be allocated for response, and someone will contact you
within 5 working days to confirm the details of your request and whether
it is subject to a fee. 

Please see the Westminster City Council website for further information on
Data Protection policies
- [1]http://www.westminster.gov.uk/services/c...

CCTV Requests
Where your request relates to the provision of CCTV Footage with regard to
yourself or your property, you MUST complete a CCTV Subject Access Request
Form (please click on URL above). 

Please note that the Council is not responsible for all cameras operating
in the borough. Nor can it guarantee that any incident(s) requested were
captured by its CCTV operations. Furthermore, in line with its policies
the Council retains footage for no more than 31 calendar days from the
date of recording. 

Please see the Westminster City Council website for further information on
requesting CCTV footage -
[2]www.westminster.gov.uk/cctvrequests 

Kindest regards, 
 
Information Management Team
Westminster City Council
5 Strand
London
WC2N 5HR
[email address]
 
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References

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2. http://www.westminster.gov.uk/cctvrequests

Westminster City Council

Information request
Our reference: 3465133

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

 
Dear Mr Chait
 
Freedom of Information Act 2000
 
Thank you for your request for information that was received on 4 April
2017.
 
Request summary
Dear Westminster City 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 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.

We recognise that you ordinarily refuse to release these data in terms of
Regulation 31(1)(a). In November 2016, we appealed this class of refusal -
specifically as it relates to this request - to the Information
Commissioner's Office and they issued a Decision Notice (FS50628943 -
https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...,
and FS50628978 -
https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...)
on 28 February 2017 finding that 'it is not correct to withhold this
information under Regulation 31(1)(a)', and that 'the public interest in
the information being disclosed outweighs that in the exemption being
maintained'.

Note that these Decision Notices supersede Voyias v Information
Commissioner and London Borough of Camden Council (EA/2011/0007) and
Decision Notice FS50538789 (related to Stoke on Trent Council).

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'm sure you get many requests for business rates and we intend to update
this national series every three months. Could we request that - as more
than 30% of local authorities already do - you update and release this
dataset via a dedicated page on your local authority website or on an open
data service. You should find that this reduces the time and cost of this
request process.

Yours faithfully,
 
We are dealing with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
and we aim to send a response by 5 May 2017.
 
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 may restrict the release of some or
all of the information you have requested. We will carry out an assessment
and if any exemptions apply to some or all of the information then we
might not provide that information to you. We will inform you if this is
the case and advise you of your rights to request an internal review and
to complain to the Information Commissioner's Office.
 
We will also advise you if we cannot provide you with the information
requested for any other reason together with the reason(s) why and details
of how you may appeal (if appropriate).
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
C Barnard
Westminster City Council
Knowledge & Information Management Team
Tel: 0207 641 3921
Email: [1][Westminster City Council request email]
Web: [2]www.westminster.gov.uk
 
NOTE: Please do not edit the subject line when replying to this email.

References

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2. file:///tmp/www.westminster.gov.uk

Parmeen Sarda, Westminster City Council

1 Attachment

Information request
Our reference: 3465133

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

 
Dear Mr Chait
 
Thank you for your request for information received on 4 April 2017.
 
Please find attached our response to your request.

If you are dissatisfied with your response please send your Internal
Review request to the email address below

[1][Westminster City Council request email]

 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Parmeen Sarda
Westminster City Council
Tel: 0207 641 3921
Email: [email address]
Web: [2]www.westminster.gov.uk
 
NOTE: Please do not reply to this email.

References

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Gareth Elton left an annotation ()

This seems absurd... using the name of the occupier (public information to anybody who, for example, walks near the property) as a security identifier? Absolute madness. How do they so brazenly refer you back to the ICO after you lead the request with an ICO document?

Dear Westminster City Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Westminster City Council's handling of my FOI request 'Complete Non-Residential / Business Property Rates Data (Section 31)'.

On 30 March 2017, 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 Commissioner's 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".

The specific rationale for your refusal is that: “The Council holds detailed financial information relating to the account holder and by confirming who was liable for specific periods the Council is opening itself up to fraudulent activity.”

“When dealing with enquiries about a particular account, the Council has only limited ways of ensuring that the person who contacts the Council is actually authorised to discuss and deal with the account. In most cases the enquirer can be asked to confirm the account reference number but where that is not available other information can be checked, such as the name of the account holder and the period of occupation.

I would like to request an internal review of your use of Section 31 on two levels:

i) There can be no expectation of confidentiality in any combination of the commercial data you specify, viz. trading name, address or occupation start date (I have not requested the period of occupation, merely the start date), since all these are already available in the public domain for all businesses.

Simply be way of illustration, here are several links where entire business databases exist 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;

Note that these databases are all freely available. I have not included commercial services, such as Property Gazetteer, which contain even more comprehensive company data.

In other words, the specific data you declare to be kept in confidence in order to ensure data protection can do no such thing since it is already available in different formats across the internet. You could offer that any use of such data to commit fraud would break the licence terms of the data providers, but I hardly believe that will trouble those about to commit such fraud.

ii) In terms of the Seventh Data Protection Principle of the Data Protection Act: “Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.”

Specifically, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office (https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/gui... “In practice, it means you must have appropriate security to prevent the personal data you hold being accidentally or deliberately compromised.”

Your claim that you use the trading name of the commercial property occupant, their address and their date of occupation as a means of secure identification of a ratepayer would seem to be in contravention of your obligations under the Seventh Principle since it is not capable of providing “appropriate security”.

It is impossible to ensure any sort of protection of private data related to bank accounts or payment details using widely accessible company information as a means of secure identity.

Further, while you have not refused my request relating to the occupation status of each commercial property, I would like to reiterate that, in November 2016, I appealed this class of refusal - specifically as it relates to this request - to the Information Commissioner’s Office and they issued a Decision Notice (FS50628943 - https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak..., and FS50628978 - https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...) on 28 February 2017 finding that “it is not correct to withhold this information under Regulation 31(1)(a)”, and that “the public interest in the information being disclosed outweighs that in the exemption being maintained”.

While I have pointed out how much of the data requested are available to the public, what such data are not available as is as Open Government Licensed data. The objective of this request is to reconcile your individual authority data with that of the Valuations Office and so create a single, unified - openly licensed - database of commercial property vacancy across England and Wales, as well as the actual revenue raised from these commercial properties.

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

T Holden, Westminster City Council

Information request
Our reference: 3465133

show quoted sections

T Holden, Westminster City Council

1 Attachment

Information request
Our reference: 3465133

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Dear Mr Chait,
 
Thank you for your recent request for an Internal Review.
 
Please find the council's response attached.
Yours sincerely
 
 
Information Management Team
Westminster City Council
Information Services
Tel: 0207 641 3921
Email: [1][Westminster City Council request email]
Web: [2]www.westminster.gov.uk

References

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1. mailto:[Westminster City Council request email]
2. file:///tmp/www.westminster.gov.uk

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