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Expanded Retail Discount October 2020

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Dear Hackney Borough Council,

REQUEST FOR INFORMATION UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000.

In accordance with the provisions specified within the above Act I hereby request the following information.
Required Information; - A list of all hereditaments where you have granted EXPANDED RETAIL DISCOUNT for the 2020/21 rate year.
This request relates to business rates but please only refer us to data available for download on your website if it contains the requested EXPANDED RETAIL DISCOUNT data.
• Property Reference Number (also known as Billing Authority Reference Number) of the property on which the charge is made. This is not the Rate Demand or Account Number.
• Current Rateable Value
• Account holder name
• Property address
• The billing address (where different to the property address)

Please provide the information in an electronic, spreadsheet format ideally excel. The Act requires that a response be provided within a period of 20 working days from the date hereof.

This request for information falls within the parameters of the Act but if you require clarification on any of the points above or should you wish to discuss this further then please do not hesitate to contact me. The requested information passes all required public interest tests and other requirements and is not exempt from disclosure.

Yours faithfully,

Richard roberts

hackney@infreemation.co.uk,

Dear Richard roberts

We acknowledge receipt of your email to Hackney:
 

Freedom of Information request - Expanded Retail Discount October 2020

Thank you for your request for information, FOI-6800.

 

If you have submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) or the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), we will always
aim to respond within the statutory timescale of 20 working days.

However, due to the current Coronavirus pandemic the Council is taking
steps to concentrate its resources on helping those who are most
vulnerable or at risk. This has meant taking our staff away from their
usual work to other areas of priority and need.

Hackney Council takes its obligations under Information Access legislation
seriously, however; the reality of the current situation means that we may
not be able to respond to your request within the statutory time frame. 

In respect of our duties to provide advice and assistance to you, it may
be useful for you to: 

• Consult data that is routinely [1]published on Hackney Council’s
website;
• Search our library of [2]previously answered Freedom of Information
and Environment Information Regulation requests; or to 
• Highlight to us if your request is time sensitive and requires urgent
attention. 

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. The Information
Commissioner’s Office has published further guidance on data processing
and information requests during this time [3]which is available here. 

 

Information Management Team

London Borough of Hackney

References

Visible links
1. https://hackney.gov.uk/transparency
2. https://foi.infreemation.co.uk/hackney/
3. https://ico.org.uk/global/data-protectio...

hackney@infreemation.co.uk,

Dear  Richard Roberts

 

Re: Freedom of Information Request /Environmental Information Request

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000, received 8 October 2020. Your request has been
considered and our response is in bold below.

 

You requested the following: 

In accordance with the provisions specified within the above Act I hereby
request the following information.
Required Information; - A list of all hereditaments where you have granted
EXPANDED RETAIL DISCOUNT for the 2020/21 rate year.
This request relates to business rates but please only refer us to data
available for download on your website if it contains the requested
EXPANDED RETAIL DISCOUNT data.
• Property Reference Number (also known as Billing Authority Reference
Number) of the property on which the charge is made. This is not the Rate
Demand or Account Number.
• Current Rateable Value
• Account holder name
• Property address
• The billing address (where different to the property address)
Please provide the information in an electronic, spreadsheet format
ideally excel. The Act requires that a response be provided within a
period of 20 working days from the date hereof.

 

The Council’s Response

Your request has now been considered and we can confirm that whilst the
Council does hold the information within the scope of your request, it
considers that this information is exempt from disclosure under Sections
21, 41 and 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act. It is important to
emphasise that in this context, any information disclosed under the
Freedom of Information Act is a disclosure into the public domain over
which the Council can exercise no control. It is not merely disclosure to
the requester. It is this perspective which must be taken into account,
and when discussing the risks of harm, the Council should not be taken to
be meaning that it believes the requester personally will, or may, take
the relevant action.

Section 21 – Information accessible by other means

Section 21(1) of the Freedom of Information Act states: “Information which
is reasonably accessible to the applicant otherwise than under section 1
is exempt information”.  This is an absolute exemption.

The complete rating lists for the London Borough of Hackney’s area can be
found on the Valuation Office Agency’s (“VOA”) website at www.voa.gov.uk/

So far as it is relevant to your request, the Billing Authority reference
number, property address and rateable value are all available via the VOA.

Accordingly, the Council is satisfied that part of the information you
seek is already in the public domain and that the exemption at Section 21
of the Freedom of Information Act applies to that part of your information
request.

 

Section 41 – Information provided in confidence

Section 41 of the Freedom of Information Act states:
(1). Information is exempt information if-

(a) it was obtained by the public authority from any other person
(including another public authority), and

(b) the disclosure of the information to the public (otherwise than under
this Act) by the public authority holding it would constitute a breach of
confidence actionable by that or any other person.

The Council has taken into account the following documents and decisions
relevant to this exemption:
1. Information Commissioners Freedom of Information Act – Awareness
Guidance 2 – “Information provided in confidence”
2. Information Commissioners “Freedom of Information Act – the duty of
confidence and the public interest”

The above documents can be found on the Information Commissioner’s website
at www.ico.gov.uk .

The Council has applied section 41(1) to the part of your request that
asks for the account holder name, the billing address, and information
regarding the granting of the relief which would, by default, be given
if the requested information was supplied. All of this information was
obtained by the Council from both individuals and companies and the
Council considers that disclosure of information not already in the public
domain would constitute an actionable breach of confidence. 

The Council also considers that the information has the necessary quality
of confidence.  It is recognised in English law that an important duty of
confidentiality is owed to taxpayers and this is known as “taxpayer’s
confidentiality”. It is a long-established principle of common law,
protecting taxpayers’ affairs against disclosure to the public, and has
been recognised to be of the utmost importance when dealing with the
administration of taxes and rates. 

The Council is satisfied that the requested information at issue here is
not trivial, nor is it available by any other means. 

The duty of confidence is not absolute, and the courts recognise that
confidential information may be disclosed where there is an overriding
public interest in disclosure, or if the person to whom the duty of
confidence is owed consents to the disclosure.

In the context of this request consent has not been provided. As to
whether there is an overriding public interest, the Information
Commissioner states in his guidance listed at 1 above that: “the courts
have taken the view that the grounds for breaching confidentiality must be
valid and very strong.  A duty of confidentiality should not be overridden
lightly”

The Information Commissioner has produced further guidance upon the duty
of confidence and the public interest test, listed at 2 above.  The
Council has had particular regard to the content of this guidance in
dealing with your request.

It is stated at page 2 of the guidance that “the public interest test
within the duty of confidence assumes that information should be withheld
unless the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in
maintaining the duty of confidence”

Ratepayers provide information (including names and addresses) to the
Council in confidence and receive rates calculations in confidence. They
have a legal expectation that these confidences will be maintained. 
Disclosure of rate or tax related information into the public domain may
discourage the provision of full information to the Council as it would
remove that expectation that such confidences would be respected. 

Furthermore there is a public interest in maintaining trust and preserving
a free flow of information to the Council where this is necessary for the
Council to perform its statutory functions relating to the administration
of Business Rates and Council Tax.  Such functions are undertaken for the
benefit of the public.

Although there may be a public interest in scrutinising how the Council
administers its business rates, the Council is unable to identify any more
specific or weighty interests arising out of the particular request
made. The request for disclosure is therefore refused under section 41(1)
of the FOIA.

 

Section 40(2) - Personal data

Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act states that personal data
is exempt if its disclosure would breach any of the data protection
principles contained within the General Data Protection Regulation and the
Data Protection Act 2018. 

The names of any individuals/sole traders, (as opposed to companies), and
their private addresses for correspondence, are exempt from disclosure
under this exemption. The withheld information on the basis of section
40(2) in this instance constitutes personal data as it identifies, or
could be easily used to identify, living individuals.

This is because disclosure of such information would be unfair and thus
breach the first data protection principle in Article 5(1)(a) of the
General Data Protection Regulations. In deciding whether disclosure of
personal data would be fair, and thus breach the first data protection
principle, relevant factors include:

• The reasonable expectations of the individual in terms of what would
happen to their personal data. 

• The consequences of disclosing the information, i.e. what damage or
distress would the individual suffer if the information was disclosed?

The Council considers that the data subjects will hold reasonable
expectations that their data would only be used for the purposes of
administering their Business Rates accounts.  The individuals in question
would suffer consequences to their privacy upon disclosing this
information because, where individuals are sole traders, information about
their business may reveal information about their financial well-being.
There is no compelling public interest in disclosure of the withheld
information. Persons supplying the Council with personal data for the
purpose of administering business rates have a legitimate expectation to
privacy, and protection from harm or distress.  It would be unwarranted
and contrary to those persons’ expectations and legitimate interests for
the Council to disclose their personal data.  When supplying their
personal data those persons are aware that it will be used to administer
their Business Rates (and any applicable reliefs, etc.), but they would
not expect that their personal data would be released into the public
domain.

The Council accepts that some of the withheld information may not be sole
traders.  Rather they may be directors of particular companies. There is
no easy method to accurately determine which parts of the information
relates to sole traders and which parts relate to directors of companies. 
Given the weighty requirements of personal data rights under the General
Data Protection Regulations, where personal data is concerned the Council
considers it appropriate to err on the side of caution. 

Disclosure of the withheld information would be unfair. The information is
therefore exempt on the basis of section 40(2) of Freedom of Information
Act.   

In addition to the above, any disclosure would also be for a purpose other
than that for which the personal data was originally collected, contrary
to Article 5(1)(b), and incompatible with the ratepayer confidentiality
terms under which it was provided. It was not specified to the persons in
question that their data might be disclosed into the public
domain. Disclosure would also breach the second principle, again as it
would be incompatible with the purpose for which the personal data was
obtained. For these reasons also, the information is exempt on the basis
of Section 40(2).

 

Appeals & Complaints Procedure

If you are dissatisfied with this response and wish to appeal, please
reply to this email and this will be dealt with through our Internal
Review procedure.

 

Your request should be submitted to us within 40 working days of
receipt of this response. Any request received after this time will only
be considered at the discretion of the Council.

 

If you are still not satisfied following the Internal Review, you have a
right to appeal to the Information Commissioner's:

[1]https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/ema...

Information Commissioner's Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

0303 123 1113

 

Yours sincerely

 

Information Management Team

ICT Services
London Borough of Hackney 

References

Visible links
1. https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/ema...

We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Richard roberts please sign in and let everyone know.