Scientology rates relief

Tristan Stewart made this Freedom of Information request to Common Council of the City of London

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 refused by Common Council of the City of London.

Tristan Stewart

Dear Common Council of the City of London,

Please give the reasons why the City of London decided that the Scientology building at 146 Queen Victoria Street should be entitled to a reduction in business rates.

Please include (but do not limit your answer to):

1)

The factual assertions made by the applicant to the City of London.

2)

The checks of veracity which City of London carried out upon those assertions.

3)

The specific criteria met by the applicant. For example, did City of London conclude that the applicant was a charity? That it was carrying out charitable work? If so then what was this charitable work?

4)

The specific legislation under which the discount was granted.

5)

The way in which the applicant met the criteria specified by the legislation in (4).

6)

The change which occurred between the City of London's first and second assessments of the applicant's eligibility (which were both negative) and the third assessment of the applicant's eligibility (which was positive).

Yours faithfully,

Tristan Stewart

COL - EB - Information Officer, Common Council of the City of London

Dear Mr Stewart,

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 (FOIA) - INFORMATION REQUEST

The City of London (CoL) acknowledges receipt of your request for
information of 8 August 2010. Public authorities are required to respond
to requests within the statutory timescale of 20 working days beginning
from the first working day after they receive a request. The Act does not
always require public authorities to disclose the information which they
hold.

The FOIA applies to the CoL as a local authority, police authority and
port health authority. The CoL is the local and police authority for the
"Square Mile", ie the historic City of London, and not for London as a
whole. Please see the following link to a map on the CoL's website, which
shows the local authority area covered:

[1]www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/maps/boundary_map.htm.
The CoL's port health authority functions extend beyond the City boundary.
For further information please see:
[2]www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/porthealth.

Yours sincerely,

Information Officer
City of London
Tel: 020-7332 1209
[3]www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

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CCS - Mail, Common Council of the City of London

To:

(1) [1][email address]
(2) [2][FOI #44076 email]
(3) [3][email address]
(4) [4][email address]
(5) [5][email address]
(6) [6][email address]
(7) [7][email address]
(8) [8][email address]

6 September 2010

Dear Applicants,

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 (FOIA) - INFORMATION REQUEST

You made requests for information on the following dates:

(1) 6 August 2010 (David Taylor)
(2) 8 August 2010 (Tristan Stewart)
(3) 9 August 2010 (David Taylor)
(4) 14 August 2010 (J Maxwell)
(5) 15 August 2010 (Steven Williams)
(6) 17 August 2010 (Tristan Stewart)
(7) 28 August 2010 (Tristan Stewart)
(8) 31 August 2010 (J Maxwell)

The City of London (CoL) responds as follows.

This response constitutes a refusal notice in accordance with section
17(5) of the FOIA. The CoL considers that the requests collectively
constitute a campaign, in accordance with section 12(4) of the FOIA and
regulation 5 of the Freedom of Information and Data Protection
(Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004.

In accordance with the legislation, public authorities are permitted to
amalgamate, for the purpose of calculating the 'appropriate limit',
requests received within 60 consecutive working days which relate "to any
extent to the same or similar information" sent by one person or by
different people who "appear to the public authority to be acting in
concert or in pursuance of a campaign".

It appears to the CoL that you are "acting in concert or in pursuance of a
campaign" directed at obtaining to an extent "the same or similar
information" on the issue of Mandatory Rate Relief by reference to the
Church of Scientology. The above requests fall within the statutory
timeframe. We include request (5) as this reasonably appears to be related
to the management of complaints about information requests on the issue of
Rate Relief by reference to the Church of Scientology, even though there
is no reference in this request to the Church of Scientology itself.

The CoL estimates that the work required to locate and extract the
information requested under the eight requests collectively would take
more than provided for in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection
(Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004, exceeding the cost ceiling,
called (as you will know) the 'appropriate limit', of £450, representing
18 hours work by one person equivalent at the statutory chargeable rate of
£25 an hour.

Parliament was aware that public authorities have finite resources with
which to manage requests for information. Section 12 and the Fees
Regulations specifically cater for this. In addition, the Commissioner has
stated (Decision Notice ref: FS50227557) with regard to FOIA section 12,
that the purpose of the section "is to prevent the possibility of a
disproportionate level of search and that it is reasonable in these
circumstances to adjudicate on the basis of a reasonable estimate of the
worst case scenario".

Given their wording, for example the recurrent use of the phrases "all
information", "all records", "full information" etc, to ensure that we
fully complied with the considerable scope of your collective requests
would involve thoroughly surveying the filing systems (in every medium),
for each department, employee and elected Member, covering all document
types. The length of time that this would take would be so excessive as to
make it very difficult to estimate. However, assuming an average of 20
minutes per member of staff of the CoL as a local authority, police
authority and port health authority, and for each elected Member, this
would take approximately 833 hours at a cost of £20,825. From this it
also follows that, because of the general nature and scope of your
collective requests, we are unable to confirm or deny precisely to what
extent we may hold information you have requested.

Nevertheless, the CoL adopts a conservative approach in providing an
estimate. Assuming concentration on the areas most likely to hold the
information, the CoL estimates the length of time that it would take to
comply with the requests would be 44.5. hours by one person equivalent
which, in accordance with the rate allowed to be charged, would be the
equivalent to a cost of £1112.50

In accordance with the Regulations, an authority is allowed to take into
account, in calculating the estimate, the time taken in -

"(a) determining whether it holds the information,

(b) locating the information,

(c) retrieving the information, and

(d) extracting the information from a document containing it."

In accordance with the Information Tribunal (Decision Notice red:
EA/2006/0085), which makes reference to calculation of estimates and
compiling the information, the CoL also considers the description covers
compiling the information, in so far as it can be said that the
information does not technically exist until it is compiled.

The CoL recognises that an estimate needs to be "sensible, realistic and
supported by cogent evidence" (Information Tribunal Decision Notice ref:
EA/2007/0004). The CoL provides the following explanation of the process.
To provide the information that you have requested, would require an in
depth scrutiny of the CoL's systems, case files and other records, and a
wide variety of classes of information stored electronically and in hard
copy (emails, minutes, policy information, etc), along with liaison across
departments:

* Hard copy files - 36 hours, at approximately 1 hour per file
* Email accounts - 5 hours, at approximately 35 minutes per email
account
* Electronic systems - 3 hours

The CoL notes that the Information Commissioner has commented that an
authority can properly take into account "the manner in which the
information is held; the fact that it is held in various physical
locations" (Decision Notice ref: FS50129653). The CoL notes also the
Commissioner's guidance (Decision Notice ref: FS50238979) as to what
constitutes a significant burden to a public authority in complying with a
request, namely where "significant involvement and coordination of staff
across the public authority extracting information from numerous sources"
would be involved.

It could also be argued that much of the information is not held, because
of the complexity of the task of retrieval from manual sources. The ICO's
guidance Information held: retrieving and compiling information from
original sources (ICO, 10/2/2009) states: "In compiling information from
records that need to be examined manually, the complexity of the
calculation is a factor to take into account when considering whether
information is held". Nevertheless, the CoL recognises a public interest
in the subject concerned, and so would not wish to rule out for disclosure
(subject to any appropriate consideration of exemptions) any of the
information purely on this ground, even though it considers this applies
in this instance. Hence the CoL has included all reasonable sources of
information within the estimate. The CoL does this in spite of the fact
that the Commissioner has stated (Decision Notice ref: FS50279125) that
"...there is no public interest element to consider" under section 12;
that the section "serves merely as the costs threshold and does not
provide any statement about the value of any request for information".

The above calculation does not take into account the degree of scrutiny of
all the information which would be required in order to ensure that we
complied with the Data Protection Act (in accordance with the FOIA section
40(2) exemption, 'personal information') and any confidentiality owed to
third parties with regard to information provided by them to the CoL which
may fall under the FOIA section 41 exemption ('information received in
confidence disclosure of which would constitute an actionable breach of
confidence'). This is because, normally, authorities are not permitted to
take into account the time taken to redact exempt information.

However, in a recent Decision Notice the Information Tribunal has stated
that "where the task [of redaction] is ... complex ... we do not think it
appropriate for the whole process to be ignored for cost estimate purposes
... [Where] the process requires a judgment to be made, document by
document, balancing the various criteria ... we believe that much, if not
all, of the process should be regarded as retrieving from each document
the information which requires to be disclosed and therefore properly
included in the cost estimate" (Decision Notice ref: EA/2009/0035). These
statements from the Tribunal have therefore been taken into consideration
in providing the estimates noted above, and refined below.

Public authorities are not required to comply with requests which it is
estimated may exceed the appropriate limit. Where they do comply, they
are allowed to charge the full permitted cost. For resource reasons, it is
the normal practice of the CoL not to comply with requests which exceed
the appropriate limit.

In accordance with best practice guidance as described by the Commissioner
(Decision Notice ref: FS50203140), after applying the appropriate limit a
public authority should provide advice and assistance, in so far as is
possible, as to ways in which an applicant could reduce his/her request so
that it may fall within the appropriate limit. In providing this advice
and assistance, we have had regard to the fact that much of the
information requested is the subject of existing FOI complaints which have
been referred to the Information Commissioner's Office and which remain
under current consideration by that Office. Some of the information also
relates to the Information Tribunal case EA/2009/0095 which Tribunal
upheld the CoL's application of exemptions to the disputed information.
(You will be aware that the correspondence relating to these requests by
Mr Thackeray can be located on the "Whatdotheyknow" website which you have
all also used to make your requests.)

Within the 18 hours we could retrieve the following for consideration:

(3) 9 August 2010 (D Taylor) - {1 hour}

(4) 14 August 2010 (J Maxwell) - 1(a), 3(a), 3(b), 3(c), 3(f) {3 hours}

(5) 15 August 2010 (S Williams) - (a)-(f) {6 hours 30 minutes}

(7) 28 August 2010 (T Stewart) - {5 hours}

(8) 31 August 2010 (J Maxwell) - {2 hours 30 minutes}

Please note that any revised request would constitute a new request, and
any information retrieved in respect of a new request would still be
subject to the consideration of exemptions. We hope that this response is
of assistance and we look forward to hearing from you with regard to any
revised request.

Finally, as the CoL wrote to Mr William Thackeray on 17/8/2010@18:44 via
the "Whatdotheyknow" website, with regard to any further advice and
assistance you may consider you require, please feel free to contact us
any time by phone, or to visit our offices, individually or together
(including with Mr Thackeray, with whom it appears you are acting in
concert). It is the CoL's experience that a conversation can be useful in
administering requests in a manner which is satisfactory to applicants,
both to clarify exactly the information being sought and how the CoL is
best able to assist.

If you wish to make a complaint about the way the CoL has managed 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:
[9]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: [10]http://www.ico.gov.uk/.

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.

The CoL holds the copyright in this communication. Its supply does not
give a right to re-use 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.

Yours sincerely,

Comptroller & City Solicitor's Department

City of London

020 7332 1633

[email address]

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Dear Common Council of the City of London,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Common Council of the City of London's handling of my FOI request 'Scientology rates relief'.

Your refusal is nonsense; the fact that Mr Thackeray and others have made previous requests is no grounds to deny this one to me. This case is attracting public interest precisely because of the manifestly unreasonable stance taken by you.

I made this FOIA request after reading about Mr Thackeray's requests and the subsequent case in the Information Tribunal; I was appalled that City of London is defending the Scientologists.

You do know they've recently been convicted of fraud in a French criminal case?

The Australian Senate has recently been investigating Scientology, and specifically COSREC (the Australian company which, on its application for mandatory relief, falsely told City of London that it was an Australian charity). Here's some of the evidence that came up:

Mr Anderson—"One should be able to clearly identify groups who do good works, because they see the results. If one cannot see those results, that particular group should be deemed to be highly suspect and should be treated as such. I guarantee if you asked the same taxpayer what good works Scientology do and what they are known for, they would actually struggle to give you an answer. I know I do. That was one of the things I found very difficult to reconcile in my association with Scientology over 25 years. I in fact found them to be quite self-serving and not really directed at the external environment".

Mrs Underwood—"… as a former Scientologist I believe that the Church of Scientology is a prime example of why this tax amendment is required. As I outlined in detail in the attachment to my submission, the Church of Scientology is a tax-exempt organisation which, one, enjoys tax-exempt status while it only serves itself at the detriment of others. It does not even serve its members. Its members actually serve it. Two, it is fraudulent. It deceives and heavily coerces its people in order to obtain so-called donations. It often does not deliver what is promised, and in some cases it uses those funds for purposes other than what is stated. This is fraud and it is a crime. Three, it is an organisation which threatens its people with ‘pay up or else’. This is extortion."

Ms Vonthehoff—"The experiences include bullying and harassment; two coerced abortions; Scientology justice procedures, including court hearings resulting in removal of freedoms; forced financial donations; severe financial stress; working a minimum of 40 hours and up to 70 hours a week for no pay; removal of my Australian passport while studying for Scientology in the US, so I was unable to leave; working under duress all night on many occasions while my young children were forced to stay at the office and sleep on the lounge; threats of loss of my family if I tried to leave; psychological abuse; being forced to sign a suicide waiver, freeing Scientology of all responsibility if I caused myself any harm, when I made it clear how much I wanted to leave; and interrogation regarding my personal life and sex life."

That evidence is from the Australian Senate's Economics Legislation Committee, Tax Laws Amandment (Public Benefit Test) Bill 2010, published September 2010. ISBN 978-1-74229-314-1, on the Internet at:
http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/e...

So here we've got evidence of fraud, extortion, forced labour, coerced abortions and suicide wavers.

Are you truly happy that City of London is doing the right thing - morally or legally - in blocking public access to information about why this corrupt organisation has been given what amounts to a grant of public money in excess of £1m?

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

Yours faithfully,

Tristan Stewart

PS - I'd also like to point out that this request was made to the public authority 'Common Council of the City of London'.

I believe that the Common Council may technically be a different public authority from the 'City of London Corporation' (to which I believe other requests were made), in which case your 'acting in concert' argument about duplicate requests by different individuals to the same authority becomes even more absurd.

Yours faithfully,

Tristan Stewart

COL - EB - Information Officer, Common Council of the City of London

Dear Mr Stewart,

Thank you for your email of 8 September 2010@12:15 (and related email
@12:18) requesting a review relating to your request of 8 August 2010. The
City of London aims to respond to FOI complaints within 20 working days
from the first working day after receiving a complaint.

Yours sincerely,

Information Officer
City of London
Tel: 020-7332 1209
[1]www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

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COL - EB - Information Officer, Common Council of the City of London

To:

(1) [1][email address]
(2) [2][FOI #44076 email]
(3) [3][email address]
(4) [4][email address]
(5) [5][email address]
(6) [6][email address]
(7) [7][email address]
(8) [8][email address]

Dear Complainants,

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 (FOIA) - INFORMATION REQUEST

Following your complaints, received by the City of London (CoL) on 7 and 8
September 2010, concerning our response of 6 September 2010@17:10 to your
requests received by the CoL between 6 and 31 August 2010, the CoL
responds as follows.

For the avoidance of unnecessary duplication, in the first part of the
response I shall address the issue of a campaign. In the second part, I
shall address any specific issues raised by each of you under your
specific complaints, where I consider they have not been addressed in the
first part of my response. I have retained the numbering of the requests
in the refusal notice.

Your complaints have been handed to me to consider by the Comptroller's &
City Solicitor's Department, which made the response of 6 September on
behalf of the CoL.

I have considered if it was legitimate to consider your requests as
forming part of a campaign and therefore eligible to be managed under
section 12(4) of the FOIA, as described in the above response and about
which you have all complained.

I consider that the 8 requests (made under 4 names) reasonably appear to
form a campaign (itself part of a larger, ongoing campaign directed at the
CoL since February 2009, and at other public authorities); that you are
all either "acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign"; that the
requests can be said to relate "to any extent to the same or similar
information"; that they were received within 17 working days and therefore
fell within the 60 consecutive working days described by law; and that
they appear to be sent "by one person ... or by different persons" (we do
not know which as applicants are not required to provide any proof of
identity).

Please note that, given that under the FOIA applicants are not required to
prove their identity in making a request, and can use one or more
communication names which may bear no relationship to their actual
identity to make one or more request, I do not consider that either
"acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign" implies any requirement
on an authority to demonstrate that applicants know each other, as
authorities have no right in law to seek evidence of this. All that is
required is a reasonable appearance that they are either "acting in
concert or in pursuance of a campaign", ie to the same effect, as is
clearly the case in this instance.

When an authority receives 8 requests within 17 working days, which are
aimed (directly or indirectly) at the same or similar information, namely
about the granting of mandatory rate relief to the building at 146 Queen
Victoria Street occupied by COSREC, and how requests for information
pertaining to this matter are managed, following 18 requests from another
applicant (William Thackeray) aimed at the same issues, it is legitimate
for an authority to consider invoking section 12(4). If an authority
cannot do so in such circumstances, it is difficult to envisage when it
could do so and that this section of the Act would seem otherwise to be
superfluous. It does not seem that the information requested has to be
precisely the same in each instance. The Act catered for that possibility,
but it also catered for the possibility that the information need only be
"to any extent similar information". It is, in the case of this campaign,
"to any extent similar information", including request 5 which could of
course capture much of the information covered by the 7 other requests.

Following on the above conclusion, I have then considered the matter of
whether or not the eight requests would collectively exceed the
appropriate limit for compliance purposes. The scale of the requests would
manifestly make this the case. One would only have to consider one of the
requests to reasonably realise that it would, namely request 6 received on
17 August 2010, which includes the following requirement: retrieval and
disclosure without time limit of "all information held in respect of the
application for mandatory relief from national non-domestic rates for the
property at 146 Queen Victoria Street (London HQ of the Scientology cult)
... Please also provide ...all information held in respect of subsequent
complaints, correspondence and FOIA queries received from the public
relating to the Scientology cult itself and to the property named above.
Please also provide ... all internal communications ... relating to the
above matters".

The Comptroller & City Solicitor's Department has already indicated that a
worse case scenario would result in an excessive number of hours being
spent on retrieval and location, and it appears to me that this could be
said to apply to this request alone. I do not agree with my colleagues
that we should not take the worse case scenario. The Information
Commissioner has stated (Decision Notice ref: FS50227557) with regard to
FOIA section 12, that the purpose of the section "is to prevent the
possibility of a disproportionate level of search and that it is
reasonable in these circumstances to adjudicate on the basis of a
reasonable estimate of the worst case scenario". I cannot see any reason
why the CoL should not take the worse case scenario in relation to a
campaign. The only reason not to do so in this instance would seem to be a
public interest argument, and yet the Information Commissioner has also
stated (Decision Notice ref: FS50279125) that "...there is no public
interest element to consider" under section 12; that the section "serves
merely as the costs threshold and does not provide any statement about the
value of any request for information".

Nevertheless, I do not overrule the Department's more refined estimate and
the advice and assistance provided.

With regard to the Department's response I have sought clarification on
one point which appears contradictory. The Department mentioned that in a
recent Decision Notice the Information Tribunal has stated that "where the
task [of redaction] is ... complex ... we do not think it appropriate for
the whole process to be ignored for cost estimate purposes ... [Where] the
process requires a judgment to be made, document by document, balancing
the various criteria ... we believe that much, if not all, of the process
should be regarded as retrieving from each document the information which
requires to be disclosed and therefore properly included in the cost
estimate" (Decision Notice ref: EA/2009/0035). However, the Department
has written that "The above calculation does not take into account the
degree of scrutiny of all the information which would be required in order
to ensure that we complied with the Data Protection Act (in accordance
with the FOIA section 40(2) exemption, 'personal information') and any
confidentiality owed to third parties with regard to information provided
by them to the CoL which may fall under the FOIA section 41 exemption
('information received in confidence disclosure of which would constitute
an actionable breach of confidence')". But it has added after referring to
Decision Notice ref: EA/2009/0035 that "These statements from the Tribunal
have therefore been taken into consideration in providing the estimates
noted above, and refined below". The Department has clarified that such
processes have been taken into account, but only very conservatively.

Again, I do not agree with my colleagues. The information covered by
request 6 alone would necessitate the reconsideration of all the
exemptions considered following all the other requests received from the
campaign since February 2009, several of which, as you will know from the
Whatdotheyknow (WDTK) website, have already been considered - and are
already being considered - by the Information Commissioner's Office. Once
again, I would consider it legitimate to follow the ruling of the
appropriate body, in this instance the Information Tribunal, in taking
this into account when considering the cost estimate, especially in
relation to a campaign. I do not attempt to provide a figure in terms of
numbers of hours but clearly it would be very considerable.

Nevertheless, again, I do not overrule the Department's more refined
estimate and the advice and assistance provided.

In conclusion, your complaints are not upheld.

I now move to your individual complaints emails to address any further
points I have not already addressed.

(1) 6 August 2010 (David Taylor)
(3) 9 August 2010 (David Taylor)

Your two complaints relating to your two requests duplicate each other. I
consider that I have addressed, above, the complaints you have made.

I would only add with regard to your comment as to the legal duty to
'confirm or deny', that we referred to this in our refusal notice, stating
"because of the general nature and scope of your collective requests, we
are unable to confirm or deny precisely to what extent we may hold
information you have requested". I note that, as we have invoked section
12(4), we would expect section 12(2) to apply to the requests
collectively. But, for clarification, we confirm that we hold information
of the type requested, while we estimate that we are unable to confirm
within the 18 hours exactly to what extent we hold the information. This
would seem to be a common sense position for the CoL to take given the
collective scale of the requests.

(2) 8 August 2010 (Tristan Stewart)
(6) 17 August 2010 (Tristan Stewart)
(7) 28 August 2010 (Tristan Stewart)

Your three complaints relating to your three requests duplicate each
other. I consider that I have addressed, above, the complaints you have
made. I would only add the following.

You stated (eg 8 September 2010@12:15) that "Your refusal is nonsense",
and that the CoL is "defending the Scientologists". You continue by
quoting various sources which are critical of the Church of Scientology.
It is outside the scope of this response to the complaints to address the
issue of the granting of mandatory rate relief itself with regard to the
premises concerned. I do not consider this relevant to the refusal under
section 12(4). I note that the Information Tribunal has already taken the
same position in relation to one of the requests which form part of the
wider campaign which began in February 2009, ie that the correctness or
otherwise of the granting, at any time, of mandatory rate relief with
regard to the premises concerned is irrelevant in considering compliance
with requests on this matter. The Tribunal stated: "It was also important
to clarify at the outset that, as the Tribunal was sure all parties
understood, it was beyond the Tribunal's jurisdiction to form any view on
the question whether COSREC was or was not entitled under the Local
Government and Finance Act 1988 to mandatory rate relief" (Decision Notice
ref: EA/2009/0095). I note that the organisation has not been outlawed
under UK jurisdiction and therefore is entitled to the same consideration
as any other ratepayer.

You also noted (in a postscript of 8 September 2010@12:18 to one of your
duplicate complaints) that "I believe that the Common Council may
technically be a different public authority from the 'City of London
Corporation' (to which I believe other requests were made), in which case
your 'acting in concert' argument about duplicate requests by different
individuals to the same authority becomes even more absurd."

Please note that there is only one legal entity involved. We have informed
the WDTK website of this, on 4 January 2010, and explained that it would
be less confusing to applicants if the site referred to the CoL under one
name instead of maintaining two lists and two names for the same legal
entity. However, it has declined to make the change and we have no
authority in relation to the site. For further clarification, please see
Paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 of the FOIA, which describes the CoL as being
subject to the FOIA with regard to 'The Common Council of the City of
London, in respect of information held in its capacity as a local
authority, police authority or port health authority'. We hope that this
addresses your comments on this point.

(4) 14 August 2010 (J Maxwell)
(8) 31 August 2010 (J Maxwell)

I consider that I have addressed, above, the two complaints you have made
relating to your two requests, which complaints are the same excepting in
that you query the use of "full information", in the response, in the
context of your request, stating that it is "it is disingenuous of the
Corporation to ... then connect my usage of that term in the context of a
list of tightly scoped and related items (per this request), with the
'considerable scope' of the requests of other individuals".

My response to this is twofold. Firstly, we assessed the requests together
as a campaign, and therefore your request fell within the collective
assessment of the estimate. This is what section 12(4) of the FOIA permits
and is its purpose. Secondly, and contrary to what I would consider
reasonableness with regard to the CoL's own resourcing of compliance, the
response does indeed provide a compromise position with regard to the
estimate. Within that, your two requests receive a balance of treatment
which does not warrant the criticism that the CoL has disingenuously
interpreted "full" in the sense of absolute completeness. Please note also
that authorities are always in a difficult position when applicants use
the terms "full", "all", "not limited to" and such-like terms and phrases,
as they have to comply with the law in full, to the letter. This is not a
disingenuous position: it is the law. The Department which made the
response on behalf of the CoL has nevertheless clearly been mindful of
this problem, contrary even to the guidance of the Commissioner which
allows a consideration of the worst case scenario.

In addition to your complaints, you sent an explanatory email directly to
the Comptroller's & City Solicitor's Department, which is located at:

[9]http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/pr...
I consider that this clearly describes a campaign. It is clear from your
description that you are aware of the campaign and that your aim,
according to your own description, is to fill in gaps which you considered
the campaign and the CoL's responses have not addressed. I note also that
you annotate the request/response site of one of William Thackeray's
requests, and you refer to that applicant in request 4.

Again, if such actions do not fall under section 12(4), I find it
difficult to understand what would. Just because a campaign may be an
e-campaign rather than one which meets in person (which it nevertheless
may do, I have no evidence either way) cannot, in these days of
e-technology, mean it is by definition not a campaign. I return again to
the wording of the legislation, either "acting in concert or in pursuance
of a campaign". I consider that you are acting in pursuance of a campaign,
and that you are also acting in concert in so far as your aim is to fill
what you perceive are the gaps overlooked by the other requests made in
relation to the subject area and the CoL's responses. I would note again
with regard to either "acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign"
that this does not imply to me any requirement on an authority to
demonstrate that applicants know each other (or indeed may be one and the
same person), as authorities have no right in law to seek evidence of
this.

(5) 15 August 2010 (Steven Williams)

I consider that I have addressed, above, the claims you have made in your
complaint. However, given that your request uniquely among the eight makes
no explicit reference to Scientology, I add the following comments.

I note that this is the first and only request you have made to the WDTK
website and I consider that it is reasonable to conclude, therefore, that
it appears to be targeted at the CoL using a new applicant name in what
appears to be an attempt to circumvent the Fees Regulations by attempting
to appear as if the request were unrelated to the campaign. I also
consider that it reasonably appears that, in order to enhance that
impression, the request avoids mention of 'Scientology', rate relief, etc.

Normally requests of this generic type would be sent to a large range of
authorities in an attempt to gain a national or regional view. This
request is sent only to the CoL, and it targets the Comptroller and City
Solicitor's Department in particular, which Department has clearly been
involved in the creation of some of the information covered by the
campaign (this is evident from the WDTK website as well as that of the
Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal). Your request
reasonably appears to be related to the campaign, taking a broad approach
but nevertheless focusing on management of complaints and the identities
of officers involved in managing FOI requests and complaints; and appears
therefore to be attempting to understand how the complaints in relation to
this campaign have been managed, even though management of the requests
and complaints is already under review (and has already been reviewed) by
the Information Commissioner. It will be evident from the WDTK website
that the CoL receives extremely few complaints about its management of FOI
requests proportionate to the number of requests it receives, excepting
complaints from the campaigners who are making the requests in relation to
'Scientology', which campaigners have made by far the majority of
complaints, ie requests for reviews.

To that extent it appears that the request is aimed at information which
is "to any extent the same or similar information", as prescribed by the
FOIA.

This impression is reinforced by the request for "all information
concerning those cases", which is in effect potentially a re-request for
all the information which has fallen under the scope of the requests
submitted by the campaign since February 2009, should the reviews have
been conducted by the Comptroller and City Solicitor's Department which
Department has clearly been involved in the creation of the information.

Please note that, as mentioned, given that applicants are not required to
disclose their identity, and could be using assumed names to make one or
more request, I do not consider that either "acting in concert or in
pursuance of a campaign" implies any requirement on an authority's part to
demonstrate that applicants know each other or that one applicant is using
different names, as authorities have no right in law to seek evidence of
this.

Finally, with regard to the legal duty to 'advise and assist' which you
mention, I note that we have advised and assisted, in accordance with the
guidance provided by the Information Commissioner in the Decision Notice
to which we referred when providing the guidance and assistance, including
we have advised and assisted with regard to your request.

For the information of all complainants please note that two further
requests (and the time involved to comply), of 8 and 9 September 2010,
have been added to the refusal under section 12(4). They can be found at:

The additional requests can be found at:
[10]http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/fo...
-Tristan Stewart (8 September 2010)
[11]http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/fo... - S Lewis (9
September 2010)

In addition, part of the request (and the time involved to comply) of 20
September 2010 which can be found at
[12]http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/sc...
- S Lee (20 September 2010) -
has also been added to the refusal under section 12(4).

Finally, you may wish to note that a report on mandatory non-domestic rate
relief granted to 146 Queen Victoria Street was presented to the Finance
Committee of the CoL on 27 September 2010. The report can be found at:

[13]http://www.minutes.org.uk/cgi-bin/C5.exe...
Members of the Committee resolved at the meeting to maintain the grant of
mandatory rate relief.

Should you wish to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner,
please contact: Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF. Telephone: (01625) 545700. Website:
[14]http://www.ico.gov.uk/.

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.

The CoL holds the copyright in this communication. Its supply does not
give a right to re-use 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.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Nelson
Assistant Town Clerk
City of London
T: 020-7332 1413
[15]www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

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