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Local Government Act 2003

Section 85: Vacant dwellings: use of council tax information

202.Billing authorities will collect information about the numbers of empty (vacant) homes in their area which are exempt dwellings for council tax purposes. Many local authorities employ empty property officers whose role is to identify empty homes and develop policies and initiatives to bring them back into use. The presence of empty homes can lead to social, economic and environmental problems (e.g. reduce neighbouring property values, encourage vandalism and increase the pressure on housing stock and land for development).

203.The LGFA 1992 does not contain clear provision allowing information collected pursuant to council tax powers under that Act, to be used for other purposes. The Information Commissioner has issued guidance advising authorities that they cannot use council tax data for other purposes.

204.Section 85 inserts a new paragraph 18A into Schedule 2 to the LGFA 1992 to allow a billing authority to use information it has obtained for the purpose of carrying out its council tax functions for the purpose of identifying vacant dwellings or taking steps to bring vacant dwellings back into use. New subparagraph 18A(2) limits the extent of personal information which may be shared to an individual’s name or an address or number (e.g. telephone number) for communicating with him.

205.The Government is conscious that it is arguable that allowing the use for other purposes of personal data collected for council tax purposes may in some circumstances constitute an interference with an individual’s right to privacy protected by article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is considered that any data sharing permitted under section 86 does not interfere with an individual’s right to privacy. The data will be used only by the billing authority which collected it and it will be used only for public functions in the public interest. Section 85 does not permit disclosure to third parties such as commercial organisations.

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