Dear Cannock Chase District Council,
In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and subject to section 40(2) on personal data, could you provide me with the following current business rates account data for your local authority.
Please note that I do not require any personal data or data in respect of sole traders or partnerships. This is a request for information in respect of companies, charities, councils and other organisations only.
This request is only in respect of businesses that are deemed to be occupied for business rates purposes. Do not provide any information is respect of properties that are considered to be empty or unoccupied for business rates purposes.
The provision of this information is in the public interest as your authority is currently awarding grants and discounts worth tens of millions of pounds to ratepayers. Nationally, councils are awarding grants and discounts worth tens of billions of pounds to companies and organisations, some of which have turnovers of billions of pounds. Some of these ratepayers may previously have been reported as engaging in activities that aim to reduce the amount of tax that they are liable to pay. As such, I believe that the provision of this information is in the interest of taxpayers and the wider public.
• Property Reference
• Liable Party Name
• Property Address
• Rateable Value
• Property Description
• Billing or Correspondence address
• Liability Start Date
• Current entitlement to any Reliefs or Discounts (do not include details of any empty property reliefs)
• Start date of the entitlement to any current reliefs or discounts
Please provide these data as machine-readable as either a CSV or Microsoft Excel file.
Thank you for your email.
If it is in regard to a Freedom of Information request, your request is
being considered and, subject to the points made below, you will receive
the information requested as promptly as possible within the statutory
timescale of 20 working days from today as defined by the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.
PLEASE NOTE DUE TO THE CURRENT NATIONAL SITUATION WE WILL ENDEAVOUR TO
RESPOND WITHIN THE STATUTORY DEADLINE. However, due to reduced staffing we
may not be able to do so.
Any personal information you provide in relation to this request will only
be used for the purposes of processing your request for information. Your
information will only be passed on to departments or staff within Cannock
Chase Council for the purposes of compiling a response to your request. We
will not forward your request to any other organisations or persons
external to the Council. Cannock Chase Council are the Data Controllers
and may be contacted at; [Cannock Chase District Council request email] .
Cannock Chase Council
1. mailto:[Cannock Chase District Council request email]
Dear Cannock Chase District Council,
I refer to my Freedom of Information request for 'Current Business Rates Information' dated 7th May 2020 which was submitted through the What Do They Know website. A response was due within 20 working days but I have not yet heard anything from you. As such, please provide the information that I have requested or provide an update on when it will be supplied.
Thank you for your request for email requesting a review of your request
After discussions with the manager in charge of business rates our
response is as follows.
When considering disclosure of information public authorities must
consider FOI requests without reference to the identity or motives of the
requester. Their focus should be on whether the information is suitable
for disclosure into the public domain, rather than the effects of
providing the information to the individual requester.
This principle was endorsed by the Information Tribunal in S v Information
Commissioner and the General Register Office (EA2006/0030, 9 May 2007)
when it stated;
'We wish to emphasise at this point that the Freedom of Information Act
is applicant and motive blind. A disclosure under FoIA, is a disclosure to
the public [i.e. the world at large]. In dealing with a Freedom of
Information request there is no provision for the public authority to look
at from whom the application has come, the merits of the application or
the purpose for which it is to be used.' (Para 80).
Authorities must therefore view disclosure as a release of information
into the public domain. This means that they must consider the
consequences of disclosure to the world at large, and not just the impact
of providing the material to the requester. It follows that the key
question an authority must ask itself when deciding how to respond is
whether the information is suitable for disclosure to anyone and everyone
in the world.
In conclusion, when considering this appeal I must consider whether it is
appropriate to disclose the information sought to everyone in the world.
If it is, then the information should be supplied, if not then an
exemption must be applied to prevent release.
There have been a number of relevant decision notices issued by the
Information Commissioners Office surrounding the publication of business
rates credit balances, three of which are listed below.
· Wandsworth Council – 6 Feb 2017 – FS50619844
· London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham – 4 October 2017 –
· London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council - 25 January 2018 –
In these the Councils argue that disclosure of the information withheld
under section 31(1)(a) would be likely to prejudice the prevention of
crime. It was explained that releasing the requested information would
allow potential fraudsters to use the information to identify business
entities which were entitled to claim credits on their accounts. Once such
a business had been identified, there would be a number of avenues open to
the fraudsters to seek to obtain funds. Based on these arguments, the
Commissioner accepts that the prejudice claimed by the Council relates to
the prevention of crime.
The Councils argued that they considered that the publication of the
requested information would be an invitation to the dishonest believing
that potential fraudsters could use the published information to identify
business entities which were entitled to claim credits on their accounts.
Once such a business had been identified, there would be a number of
avenues open to the fraudsters to obtain funds. These included:
· Hijacking the company’s identity, before posing as the company to
claim the funds; or
· Setting up fraudulent accounts in the name of the company in order
to seek a repayment; or
· Posing as the Council in order to approach the company with
relevant details of the overpayment in order to acquire confidential
information such as banking details.
Instances of attempts of this nature of fraud have occurred in relation to
our Council and so are a very real and ongoing threat.
It was explained that if an individual obtained the details of credits on
accounts that had yet to be claimed there is little to stop them from
attempting to obtain the funds for themselves by writing in or completing
an application form containing their bank account details. Normally a
credit on an account is only revealed by it showing on a bill sent
directly to the liable party of the account with the credit. This is
essentially the first safeguard and reduces the risk considerably as that
information stays out of the public domain.
A suspicious refund application that resulted from a recent credit bill
being dispatched would mean contacting the applicant via letter or email
to request further proof of a genuine claim. Some of these sums are
considerable so we are cautious in ensuring they are returned to the
The Council raised concerns that it would not be able to assess which were
real and which were fraudulent claims without a great deal of
investigation. It noted that it did not have the necessary skills or
resources to carry out such assessments and to obtain these would involve
additional extra costs. If there was a risk of fraud, the Council would be
placed under a duty as a responsible public body to ensure that the system
was made as secure as possible.
It is clear from the examples provided in the decision notices and also
from the council’s own experience that the threat of fraudulent activity
is a real threat and so this is why our Council and so many other Councils
now limit the amount of information they publish about Business Rates.
Whilst I acknowledge that there is some public interest, the protection of
public funds is paramount.
It is for these reasons that we have decided to maintain our stance on
disclosure and to not release the information.
I am very sorry that we were not able to assist you on this occasion.
If you are not satisfied with our response you can complain to us at
Following the exhaustion of our complaints procedure you can also complain
to the Information Commissioner at:
Information Commissioner's Office
Telephone: 0303 123 1113
Cannock Chase Council
Dear Cannock Chase District Council,
Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.
I am writing to request an internal review of Cannock Chase District Council's handling of my FOI request 'Current Business Rates Information'.
I refer to your refusal dated 15th June 2020 to my request for information. You will note that I submitted my request on 7th May and you subsequently refused this on 15th June. Please treat this as a request for an internal review to be undertaken of that decision.
You have also refused my request quoting Section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and have then gone onto explain why the provision of information relating to credit balances could lead to fraud being committed in respect of refund claims. However, I have not requested any information from you regarding credit balances on business rates accounts, therefore there is nothing to prevent you from providing the information that I have requested.
However, from a wider perspective I would like to explain why the provision of the information that I have requested is important and in the public interest. In the current context it is expected that Cannock Chase Council will be granting tax reliefs and grant funding totalling over tens of millions of pounds in the current financial year alone. Some of these payments may be granted to businesses that are profitable or may have been previously reported as engaging in activities that mitigate or reduce the amount of tax that they are liable to pay – in some cases this may even include business rates.
This is a matter of public interest and there are already a number of news articles on this subject, such as https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfre.... Cannock Chase Council should have developed and approved its own local policies regarding rates relief and your residents and taxpayers in general have a right to know the full cost of these policies and which companies are benefiting from them.
As such, and because the cost of these local policies will be borne by current and future taxpayers, I strongly suggest that a reasonable person (or taxpayer) would not regard the supply of information regarding reductions in taxation as being a breach of confidence. The tax affairs of these multi-national companies are already discussed in public and there is already disquiet about their ‘business rates holiday’ as shown in an article in The Times dated 28th April 2020 titled ‘Companies who avoid tax in good times shouldn’t get bailouts now’. In addition, other companies may have benefited financially from the current situation but now be in receipt of a 100% rates discount in accordance with your local policy.
It may well be the case that Cannock Chase Council has adopted a policy that grants a rates holiday worth over a million pounds to a highly profitable multi-national ratepayer that is benefiting financially from the current situation. However, your residents and taxpayers will never be made aware of this unless the information is made available. There is significant public interest as demonstrated in the article at https://www.theguardian.com/business/202... which links a large increase in pay for the CEO of a retailer and a possible ‘business rates holiday’ for that retailer.
Therefore, I suggest that there is strong public interest for the information that I have requested to be supplied.
A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...
Thank you for your email and balanced response. I understand your concerns.
I have forwarded to the relevant department although am still awaiting a response. They are very busy coping with day to day work along with the extra pressures of Covid related tasks. Please bear with us and we will respond as soon as possible.
Thank you again
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