Minutes of meeting re CoL Scientology UK HQ

William Thackeray made this Freedom of Information request to City of London Corporation

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

William Thackeray

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please provide agenda, minutes, and any other records of the meeting on 30 August 2006 between legal
representatives of Church of Scientology Religious Education College Incorporated ("COSREC") and the City of London
("CoL") to discuss COSREC's appeal following refusals by the
CoL of mandatory rate relief.

Yours faithfully,

William Thackeray

COL - EB - Information Officer, City of London Corporation

The City of London acknowledges receipt of your request.

City of London
[1]www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

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COL - EB - Information Officer, City of London Corporation

Further to your request of 9 June 2009 (the first of two of that date),
and our acknowledgement of 10 June, this response acts as a Refusal Notice
to your request.

Your request was as follows:

Please provide agenda, minutes, and any other records of the meeting on 30
August 2006 between legal representatives of Church of Scientology
Religious Education College Incorporated ("COSREC") and the City of London
("CoL") to discuss COSREC's appeal following refusals by the CoL of
mandatory rate relief.

We can confirm that we hold a copy of the minutes of the meeting of 30
August 2006. However we are unable to provide this information to you,
relying on the section 31(1)(d) exemption (prejudice to the assessment or
collection of any tax or duty or of any imposition of a similar nature),
section 41 (information provided in confidence) and section 40(2) in
respect of the names and contact details of certain individuals referred
to. We can confirm that Andrew Colvin, Comptroller and City Solicitor
and Carla-Maria Health, Head of Revenues, attended the meeting on behalf
of the City Corporation.

Application of Exemptions
(1) Section 40(2) exemption
We apply the FOIA section 40(2) exemption (personal information) to
disclosure of the name of various individuals. We consider that where
someone works, including who their employer is, is personal information,
whether in the public or private sector. The Information Tribunal has
upheld the view that "to release the name of an individual's employer
would be to release significant personal data", and hence could be a
breach of the Data Protection Principles under the Data Protection Act
1998 (DPA). The exemption is engaged as we consider that a breach of the
First Data Protection Principle under the DPA would occur because of
disclosure, i.e. the principle of fair and lawful processing. There is no
general expectation by third parties that their place of work and work
contact details should be automatically disclosed by the CoL following a
FOI request, which requests we have to treat as being in effect a
disclosure to everyone and anyone, i.e. it becomes fully public
information.

(2) Section 31(1)(d) exemption
With regard to additional information which has not been disclosed, we
apply the section 31(1)(d) exemption - prejudice to the assessment or
collection of any tax or duty or of any imposition of a similar nature.
In order that the CoL may undertake its functions in respect of the
assessment and collection of tax etc such discussions must take place out
of the public eye and the release of the information may affect both the
openness of future discussions with any applicant and the confidence of
applicants in the CoL in dealing fairly and impartially with their
application without being subject to outside influences. (Refer the
Information Commissioner's decisions - FS50066998 and FS50098771.) Release
of the information would therefore be prejudicial to the exercise of these
functions.

This exemption is subject to the public interest test. While there is a
public interest in encouraging accountability and transparency by
increasing public understanding of the CoL's processes and decisions, this
should be weighed against both the detrimental effect that release of the
information would have in assessing applications for grant relief as
future applications would be likely to be expressed less frankly if it
were known that they were likely to be released into the public domain;
together with the inherent public interest in the effective working of the
process for determining mandatory rate relief in order to ensure the
efficient use of the public authority's resources in assessing
applications and awarding relief. We would not normally disclose the
information requested for these reasons and also to ensure that there can
be no suggestion that outside pressures were affecting a fair assessment
by the CoL as a public authority. We are mindful that certain members of
the public may have an interest in the conduct of the Church of
Scientology, however this of itself does not constitute a public interest
argument supporting disclosure (refer the Information Tribunal decision of
Hogan v The Information Commissioner, EA/2005/0026, EA/2005/0030). It is
important that there should be equity in the way all ratepayers are
treated.

(3) Section 41 exemption
With regard to additional information which has not been disclosed, we
also apply the section 41 exemption - information provided in confidence.
This exemption is being relied upon as this information was provided to
the CoL in confidence; it continues to have the necessary quality of
confidence in that it is not otherwise accessible and is more than trivial
in nature; it was imparted to the CoL in circumstances importing an
obligation of confidence; and it is considered that disclosure of the
information would give rise to an actionable breach of confidence

The FOIA applies to the CoL as a local authority, police authority and
port health authority. Subject to any other statutory provisions requiring
the City of London to disclose information, release of information outside
the scope of the Act is subject to the discretion of the City of London.

If you wish to make a complaint about the way the CoL has handled your
enquiry, please make your complaint in writing to email address:
[email address]. For a link to the CoL's FOI complaints
procedure, please visit the following page:
[1]www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Feedback, at the end of which is located the
FOI complaints procedure. If, having used the CoL's FOI Complaints
Procedure, you are still dissatisfied, you may request the Information
Commissioner to investigate. Please contact: Information Commissioner,
Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF. Telephone:
(01625) 545700. Website: [2]http://www.ico.gov.uk/.

The CoL holds the copyright in this email and attached document. The
supply of these does not give you a right to re-use the documents in a way
that would infringe that copyright, for example, by making copies,
publishing and issuing copies to the public or to any other person. Brief
extracts of any of the material may be reproduced under the fair dealing
provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (sections 29 and
30) for the purposes of research for non-commercial purposes, private
study, criticism, review and news reporting, subject to an acknowledgement
of the copyright owner.

City of London
[3]www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

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William Thackeray

Dear Sir or Madam,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of City of London Corporation's handling of my FOI request 'Minutes of meeting re CoL Scientology UK HQ'.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/mi...

My reasons for requesting an internal review are:

In respect of section 40(2) exemption (personal information): could the document not be redacted?

In respect of the section 31(1)(d) exemption - prejudice to the assessment or collection of any tax etc: I would argue that the possibility that COSREC has relied in its arguments to the CoL on charitable donations which may have been made by COSREC to possible 'sham charities' under the control of COSREC itself (which could constitute fraud against the CoL and against the taxpayer) provides a public interest argument for the release of this information.

In respect of the section 41 exemption - information provided in confidence: please specify what circumstances imported an obligation of confidence on the CoL in respect of each of these documents.

Thank you, as ever, for your time and attention on this matter.

Yours faithfully,

William Thackeray

COL - EB - Information Officer, City of London Corporation

Thank you for your email of today.

By this email, your request for a review is copied to our complaints
officer, who will log your complaint. The City of London aims to respond
to FOI complaints within 20 working days from the first working day
after receiving the complaint.

City of London
www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

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TC - Complaints, City of London Corporation

The City of London (CoL) has considered your complaint made by email on
the 10 July 2009 in respect of your email request for information under
the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) made on the 9 June 2009 and our
response to that request on the 7 July, also sent by email.

Our decision is that your complaint is unsuccessful.

You made the following request on the 6 June 2009:

" Please provide agenda, minutes, and any other records of the meeting on
30 August 2006 between legal representatives of Church of Scientology
Religious Education College Incorporated ("COSREC")and the City of London
("CoL") to discuss COSREC's appeal following refusals by the CoL of
mandatory rate relief. "

We issued a Refusal Notice on the 7 July 2009 and indicated that the
information which fell within your request would not be disclosed as it
was exempt pursuant to: FOIA section 31(1)(d) - prejudice to the
assessment or collection of any tax or duty or of any imposition of a
similar nature; section 40(2) - personal data of third parties; and
section 41 - confidential information received from third parties.

In your complaint of the 10 July you made certain counter arguments to our
reasoning for the application of the exemptions. The specific points
raised by you are set out below with our response to them:

(1) In respect of section 40(2) exemption (personal information): could
the document not be redacted?

In principle personal data may be redacted. However, as the balance of the
information which includes the personal data is also exempt from
disclosure, for the reasons set out below, it is not possible to disclose
the documents with personal data redacted.

(2) In respect of the section 31(1)(d) exemption - prejudice to the
assessment or collection of any tax etc: I would argue that the
possibility that COSREC has relied in its arguments to the CoL on
charitable donations which may have been made by COSREC to possible 'sham
charities' under the control of COSREC itself (which could constitute
fraud against the CoL and against the taxpayer) provides a public interest
argument for the release of this information.

We note the points you have made, however, as stated in our Refusal
Notice, while there is a public interest in encouraging accountability and
transparency by increasing public understanding of the CoL's processes and
decisions, this must be weighed against other relevant factors such as the
strong public interest in allowing public authorities to undertake
assessments for tax relief without interference and it is important that
there should be equity in the way all ratepayers are treated. While
certain members of the public may have an interest in the conduct of the
Church of Scientology this of itself does not constitute a public interest
argument supporting disclosure (please see the Information Tribunal
decision of Hogan v The Information Commissioner, EA/2005/0026,
EA/2005/0030). The City Corporation must abide by various requirements to
detect and prevent fraud and systems are in place to support these duties.

(3) In respect of the section 41 exemption - information provided in
confidence: please specify what circumstances imported an obligation of
confidence on the CoL in respect of each of these documents.

As noted in our Refusal Notice, discussions at that meeting were
confidential and all information imparted at that meeting and all records
relating to that information was provided to the CoL in confidence. The
information continues to have the necessary quality of confidence in that
it is not otherwise accessible and is more than trivial in nature; it was
imparted to the CoL in circumstances importing an obligation of
confidence; and it is considered that disclosure of the information would
give rise to an actionable breach of confidence.

We take this opportunity to correct an error in the Refusal Notice which
advised that a copy of minutes of the meeting were held. In fact there
are no formal minutes of the meeting but rather only contemporaneous notes
of that meeting are held. In any event this information still falls
within the ambit of your request and remains exempt from disclosure for
the reasons stated above.

If you are dissatisfied with the decision, you may request the Information
Commissioner to investigate.

The Information Commissioner is a Crown appointment, responsible for
monitoring compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. Please contact:
Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire,
SK9 5AF. Telephone: (01625) 545700. Website: [1]www.ico.gov.uk

City of London
[2]www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

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William Thackeray left an annotation ()

Sent to ICO:

"
Internal review done but information not released.

The taxpayer corporation concerned (COSREC Inc) has been refused charitable status by the Charities Commissioners, as they deem it does not meet any of the four Heads of Charity. However, contrary to the Charity Commission's decision, COSREC has been granted relief from business rates by the City of London. This contradiction means that disclosure is in the public interest.

Full info: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/mi...
"

Pietsch, Anne, City of London Corporation

Dear Mr Thackeray,

I am writing to you following the Information Commissioner's decision in this matter (Decision Notice dated 5 October) which was received by the Town Clerk and Chief Executive of City of London today. The information falling within your request has been posted to the City of London's website at - http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/disclosur... .

On that webpage you will see that there is additional information, relating to the City of London's award of mandatory rate relief to the Church of Scientology Religious Education College Inc, which has been published following the City of London Finance Committee meeting, held on 27 September 2010, where Members resolved to maintain the grant of mandatory rate relief and also, in light of the public’s interest in this matter, to publish certain information to assist the public in understanding the decision and the actions taken to date.

Yours sincerely,

Anne Pietsch
Public and Corporate Law
for Comptroller and City Solicitor
City of London, PO Box 270, Guildhall EC2P 2EJ
PH: 020 - 7332 1633 (direct line)
FAX: 020 - 7332 1992
www.cityoflondon.gov.uk <file://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk>

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William Thackeray

Dear Anne,

Many thanks.

Is the document "Contemporaneous note of meeting 30/08/2006 (Not formal minutes)" the whole of the disputed information in this case?

I thought (perhaps wrongly) that there were minutes.

Yours sincerely,

William Thackeray

Pietsch, Anne, City of London Corporation

Dear Mr Thackeray,

I can confirm there are no formal minutes only the contemporaneous notes
and the typed transcript of them.

Yours sincerely,

Anne Pietsch
Public and Corporate Law
for Comptroller and City Solicitor
City of London, PO Box 270, Guildhall EC2P 2EJ
PH: 020 - 7332 1633 (direct line)
FAX: 020 - 7332 1992
www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

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J Maxwell left an annotation ()

WT - well done with the ICO outcome:

For others, excerpt copypasta from http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/51...

ICO: FS50265544

...

88. The Commissioner’s decision is that the CoL did not deal with the following aspects of the request for information in accordance with the Act:
- it incorrectly relied upon section 31(1)(d) of the Act for the non disclosure of the requested information;
- it incorrectly relied upon section 41 of the Act for the non disclosure of the requested information;
- it incorrectly relied upon section 40(2) of the Act for the non disclosure of the names of three individuals referred to in the withheld information.

Steps Required

89. The Commissioner requires the CoL to take the following steps to ensure compliance with the Act:
the CoL should disclose the requested information, in its entirety, to the complainant.

90. The CoL must take the steps required by this notice within 35 calendar days of the date of this notice.

Ben Harris left an annotation ()

The full decision notice: <http://www.ico.gov.uk/tools_and_resource...>

"Following a detailed investigation the Commissioner has decided that sections 31(1)(d), 40(2) and 41(1) of the Act do not apply in this case. He has therefore requested that CoL release the requested information to the complainant within 35 days of this Notice."