Current Business Rates Information - a Freedom of Information request to Halton Borough Council (2023)

Dear Ms Coates,

I am writing in response to your e-mail below concerning your request for
an internal review of the way in which the Council has dealt with your
information request.

Having considered all of the circumstances of your case I wish to confirm
the Council’s position as follows.

Whilst for the reasons previously explained the Council cannot readily
disassociate personal and non-personal data from the NNDR records it holds
with 100% accuracy it is accepted that information regarding limited
companies could be extracted from the records and therefore section 40 of
the FOIA may not be wholly applicable to your request.

However the Council also remains of the view that for the reasons
previously explained information pertaining to individual NNDR accounts is
confidential in nature and in accordance with section 41 of the FOIA and
it is acknowledged that you have taken this into account.

The Council would also acknowledge that there may be a legitimate public
interest in the government’s response to the economic impact of the
current COVID 19 crisis to which you have referred. It is clear from your
communication, and an independent internet search, that this issue is a
matter of public record, an example being the blogpost very recently
published by the Retail Gazette concerning a large retail organisation and
which is accessible via their website at

(Video) Executive Committee - January 24, 2018 - Part 2 of 2


Furthermore information relating to specific organisations and their NNDR
liabilities can be obtained from that already within the public domain
e.g. the Valuation Office Agency website and various search tools,
including those operated by the companies themselves, that would identify
retail property addresses occupied by specific organisations. From this
information it is likely that a reasonable approximation of an
organisations annual NNDR liabilities can be calculated.

In this instance the national NNDR relief scheme i.e. “business rates
holiday” to which you refer is being wholly funded by central government
on a national basis and the local operation of the scheme would have no
direct bearing with regards to Halton Council Tax payers and / or the use
of Council budgets in relation to the delivery of local services.

In taking account of the above the Council has also considered the extent
to which the public interest in the transparency and accountability of its
actions would be further served by the publication of details concerning
all business ratepayers within the borough of Halton.

On balance the Council has concluded that releasing the information that
you have requested would not serve to further inform public debate on the
wider issues that you have described and that maintaining the confidence
of taxpayers’ affairs outweighs that of disclosure. It is for this reason
that the Council cannot accommodate your request in this specific

Whilst I trust that my response has clarified the Council’s position in
regards to this matter should you remain dissatisfied with the way in
which the Council has dealt with your enquiry you may wish to contact the
Information Commissioners Office, further details of whom can be found at

(Video) General Issues Committee (Budget) - January 11, 2023


Michael Foy MBA

Principal Officer (Performance & Corporate Affairs)| Halton Borough
Council | Municipal Building | Kingsway | Widnes | Cheshire | WA8 7QF.

E-mail: [3][email address] | Website: [4]


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

(Video) Council meeting, February 24, 2020

I am writing to request an internal review of Halton Borough Council's
handling of my FOI request 'Current Business Rates Information'.

You have refused my request quoting s40 of the Freedom of Information Act.
In my request I have specifically asked you to exclude individuals and
sole traders. You have subsequently stated that in effect where a limited
company has just one director, that this constitutes personal information.
This is not the case as these companies are separate legal entities in
their own right. Government already publishes financial information about
companies with a sole director, with one example at
[6] The supply of
information in respect of companies with a sole director is not considered
as personal information by central government, so there is no reason why
this should be the case for local government, as this is not personal data
but is data in respect of a separate legal entity, i.e. the company. I
will detail below why there is significant public interest in information
being released.

You have also refused my request under s41 of the Freedom of Information
Act 2000. In the current context it is expected that Halton 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 major matter of public interest and there are already a number
of news articles on this subject, such as
Halton 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 Halton’s local policy.

It may well be the case that Halton 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 so long at the council uses s41 to prevent the release of this
information. There is significant public interest as demonstrated in the
article at
which links a massive increase in pay for the CEO of a retailer and a
possible ‘business rates holiday’ for that retailer. If, as an example,
Halton Council has granted a discount to that retailer it should not be
treated as confidential and the council should not be relying upon s41 to
suppress the release of that information.

(Video) Planning & Development Council meeting of January 14, 2019, 7 p.m. from the Halton Regional Centre

Again, and purely for illustrative purposes, the article at
details a large payment which was made to a company executive in Monaco.
It may well be the case that Halton Council has now granted a reduction in
this company’s business rates and I believe that there is an overriding
public interest in disclosure of this information that outweighs the
public interest in maintaining the duty of confidence. In fact, it would
be difficult to argue against this.

Therefore, I suggest that there is strong public interest for the
information to be supplied and that this would not breach the common law
principle of taxpayer confidentiality, particularly as the wider tax
affairs of many of the companies that may be in receipt of a rates
discount from Halton Council are discussed in the public domain.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on
the Internet at this address:

Yours faithfully,

Jane Coates


(Video) Board of Education - Board Business Meeting - 3/7/23

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1. School Board Business Meeting: 3-16-22
2. March 7, 2023 Regular Board Meeting of the Halton Catholic District School Board
3. Council meeting, April 26, 2021
(Town of Oakville)
4. City Council Meeting - August 30
(City of St. Catharines (Official Page))
5. Council Meeting of June 24, 2019
(Town of Oakville)
6. Sept. 6 2022 Regular Board Meeting of the Halton Catholic District School Board
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