Scientology tax relief - update please

William Thackeray made this Freedom of Information request to Birmingham City Council

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 partially successful.

William Thackeray

Dear Birmingham City Council,

I refer to my previous FOIA request, which can be found here:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/sc...
with further details in the Information Commissioner's Decision Notice FS50344666.

It is my understanding that since the date of my previous request, the position has changed. So my new FOIA query is:

In respect of the following property:

8 Ethel Street
Birmingham
B2 4BG

please provide details of any application for mandatory or discretionary relief from non-domestic rates, or renewal of such relief, which has been made since my previous FOIA request of 15 April 2010.

If such relief has been applied for, please provide:

- a copy of the application and all documents supplied in support of it,

- details of the Council's decision whether or not to apply the relief,

- the reasons behind the Council's decision,

- internal and external communications concerning the application and the decision.

Please provide the information in electronic format to this email address.

Thank you for your assistance with this matter.

Yours faithfully,

William Thackeray

Des McGlinchey, Birmingham City Council

3 Attachments

Dear Sir

We write in response to your request(s) made under the Freedom of
Information Act for the following information:-

"1. please provide details of any mandatory or discretionary relief from
non-domestic rates which has been applied at any time over the past 5
years in relation to 8 Ethel Street, Birmingham, B2 4BG.

2. If such relief has been applied, please provide:

a copy of the application and all documents supplied in support of
it; and
the reasons behind the Council's decision to apply the relief."

1. In relation to the first request, Birmingham City Council can confirm
that, in relation to the property at 8 Ethel St, The Church of
Scientology Religious Education College Inc. had been in receipt of
80% discretionary relief as it fits the Council's current policy for
discretionary rate relief under Section 47 of the Local Government
Finance Act 1988. This relief had been awarded throughout the period
of the request. However, this is no longer the case, following a
change of policy, as evidenced in the letter of April 2011 attached
below

(See attached file: discretionery relief policy.pdf)

2. Please find attached a copy of the application form and supporting
documentation. Birmingham City Council has withheld the names of the
individuals contained in the documentation to comply with the Data
Protection Act 1998, as Birmingham City Council believes that the
names, in conjunction with the Church of Scientology Religious
Education College Inc, falls within the remit of sensitive personal
data.

(See attached file: 2011-12 application & rejection letter
(attachments) (FOI).pdf)(See attached file: 2011-12 application &
rejection letter (attachments) 2 (FOI).pdf)

The Freedom of Information Act provides that, under s.40, personal
data deemed to be exempt information, i.e. exempt from disclosure in
response to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act.

It should also be noted that the majority of the information disclosed
already exists in the public domain, as it is information available at
Companies House, and as such, could be deemed to be exempt under s.21 of
the Freedom of Information Act, as being information easily accessible by
alternative means. However, to assist you, we have provided you with the
entire application, save for personal data, for the reasons set out above.

3) Please find attached the letter sent in April 2011 to the The Church
of Scientology Religious Education College Inc. As referred to above,
Birmingham City Council has removed the names of individuals to comply
with the Data Protection Act, as permitted under Section 40 of the Freedom
of Information Act.

(See attached file: 2011-12 application & rejection letter
(attachments) 2 (FOI).pdf)

4) Please find attached a copy of the Council's Discretionary Rates
Relief Policy.

(See attached file: discretionery relief policy.pdf)

If you are not satisfied with the response you may ask for an internal
review. If subsequently you are not satisfied with the Council’s decision
you may apply to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally,
the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints
procedure provided by the Council. The Information Commissioner can be
contacted at the following address:
The Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Telephone: 01625 545745
Web Address: www.ico.gov.uk

Revenues & Benefits
Birmingham City Council

0121 464 1468

Re use of Public Sector Information

The information provided is subject to Birmingham City Council copyright,
however, it may be re-used for personal, educational or non-commercial
purposes without further reference to the City Council. If the re-use is
for other purposes, such as commercial re-use, you should notify the City
Council in writing to seek approval or agree terms for re-use. Where
Birmingham City Council does not hold the copyright, it has indicated the
copyright holder. Permission for re-use should be sought from them
directly.

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William Thackeray

Dear Birmingham City Council,

Thank you for the information you have released - it's very useful.

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Birmingham City Council's handling of my FOI request 'Scientology tax relief - update please'.

Some information has been redacted on the grounds that it is personal information under DPA.

I ask the Council to reconsider these redactions because:

- some of them (e.g. 'our ref' reference number) appear to have been made in error.

- I do not agree that the names of corporate officers signing corporate documents applying for tax exemption are subject to the FOIA exemption.

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

Many thanks for your assistance.

Yours faithfully,

William Thackeray

Birmingham City Council

Dear Mr Thackeray

Request for Internal Appeal - Freedom of Information Act 2000

Further to your email regarding your request under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000, and your request for an appeal of the decision to
withhold all/part of the information.

All appeals dealing with decisions to withhold information made under the
Freedom of Information Act are dealt with through the appeals process
contained under Section 45 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Your appeal will be heard by Officers who had no involvement in the
decision to withhold the information sought by yourself.

In order to assist the panel in deliberating the appeal, we would be
grateful if you could please forward to us any evidence or submissions you
feel would support your argument that the information should be disclosed.
Please address your documentation to Corporate Information Governance Team
at the address below by 14th July 2011.

After this date a panel will be convened and we will contact you once a
decision has been made. We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Corporate Information Governance Team

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Birmingham City Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Thackeray

Please see the attached for your request for an internal review.

(See attached file: Appeal Decision Letter.doc)

Yours sincerely

Corporate Information Governance Team

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William Thackeray left an annotation ()

Attachment reads:

Our Ref: FOI 5654

3rd August 2011

Email response to Mr William Thackeray

Dear Mr Thackeray

FOI APPEAL

I write further to your email dated 7th July 2011 to The Corporate Information Governance Team seeking a review of the decision of the City Council to refuse your request.

Request
I refer to my previous FOIA request, which can be found here: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/sc...
with further details in the Information Commissioner's Decision Notice FS50344666.

It is my understanding that since the date of my previous request, the position has changed. So my new FOIA query is:

In respect of the following property:

8 Ethel Street
Birmingham
B2 4BG

Please provide details of any application for mandatory or discretionary relief from non-domestic rates, or renewal of such relief, which has been made since my previous FOIA request of 15 April 2010.

If such relief has been applied for, please provide:

- a copy of the application and all documents supplied in support of it,

- details of the Council's decision whether or not to apply the relief,

- the reasons behind the Council's decision,

- internal and external communications concerning the application and the decision.

The Appeal panel met on Tuesday 19th July 2011 to consider your request. In deliberating its decision the panel gave consideration to:

• The original request
• Response provided
• Request for an internal review from the requestor
• S40 exemption – personal data applied

The panel upheld the use of the s40 exemption, Personal Data. The panel concluded that although exemption s40 of the Freedom of Information Act was applied, the original response should have provided more detail as to the applicability of the exemption.

Under s.40 of the Act, information is exempt from disclosure if it is Personal Data as defined by the Data Protection Act 1998. If Birmingham City Council was to release this information, it would be breaching the Data Protection Act by making an unauthorised disclosure of sensitive personal data i.e. name and the third parties religious beliefs.

Definition of Sensitive personal data is defined in S2 of the Act:
The Act defines categories of sensitive personal data, namely personal data consisting of information as to:

(a) the racial or ethnic origin of the data subject;
(b) his political opinions;
(c) his religious beliefs or other beliefs of a similar nature;
(d) whether he is a member of a trade union (within the meaning of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992);
(e) his physical or mental health or condition;
(f) his sexual life;
(g) the commission or alleged commission by him of any office; or
(h) any proceedings for any offence committed or alleged to have been committed by him, the disposal of such proceedings or the sentence of any court in such proceedings

The panel noted the applicant’s comments regarding the redaction of the reference number on the letter dated 14th April 2011. This was referred back to the service area for clarification. They have confirmed that the redacted data relates to a unique reference number attributed to the Church of Scientology and the applicant who made the application on behalf of the said Church of Scientology.

S31 (1) (a) of the Freedom of Information Act provides that:

“ Information which is not exempt information by virtue of section 30 is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to prejudice –

(a) the prevention or detection of crime

This exemption is prejudiced based and subject to the public interest test.

Birmingham City Council recognises the right for the public to know how tax payer’s money is being spent and administered, including which organisations have been granted tax relief.
However, reference numbers are used as part of the DPA security questions asked by the City Council for any enquiries. If this information was released into the public domain, this information together with the name of the company could potentially be used to obtain and gain access to sensitive personal data about the individual who made the application on behalf of the organisation, such as the name and address which in conjunction with his belief as a member of the Church of Scientology means that this information falls under the remit of sensitive personal data as set out in S2 of the Data Protection Act.

We trust this is satisfactory. If however, you are not satisfied with the City Council’s decision, you may apply to the Information Commission for an independent review at the following address:-

The Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Tele No: 01625 545700

www.ico.gov.uk

Yours sincerely

Malkiat Thiarai
Head of Information Governance

William Thackeray left an annotation ()

Referred ICO 3 Aug 2011.

William Thackeray left an annotation ()

ICO Case Reference Number FS50408377

Birmingham City Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Thackeray

Please see the attached letter in relation to your request ref: FOI5654.

(See attached file: FOI 5654 Decision Notice Response.doc)

regards

Corporate Information Management Team

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William Thackeray

Dear Birmingham City Council,

Received with thanks.

Yours faithfully,

William Thackeray