Thursday, October 21, 2010

Church of Scientology rates relief information disclosed

The City of London has disclosed information relating to the decision to grant the Church of Scientology Religious Education College (COSREC) mandatory relief from business rates for its premises at 146 Queen Victoria Street in London. The disclosure follows a ruling from the Information Commissioner (FS50265544) that minutes of a meeting between the CoL and COSREC in August 2006 should be disclosed.  The CoL had sought to withhold the minutes under sections 31(1)(d), 41(1) and 40(2) of the FOI Act.

The Commissioner’s decision notice states:
The Commissioner considers that there is a significant legitimate public interest in obtaining information about the process that led to COSREC being granted mandatory rate relief to enable the public to better understand how this organisation qualified for this form of tax relief. Particularly as the COSREC is controversial, there is significant public concern about the relief being awarded to this organisation, the amounts involved are substantial and the cost of mandatory rate relief is met by the public purse.

The documents made available by the CoL also include:

A legal opinion by Jonathan Crow QC from October 2008, correspondence with the Department for Communities and Local Government and a report considered by the Finance Committee at a meeting on 27 September 2010, where it was resolved to maintain the grant of mandatory relief.

The minutes were requested by William Thackeray.

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