The Council has temporarily removed its NNDR datasets from public view due to reports of this data being used to comit fraud. Some of the data contained in the publication is being used in some parts of the country to attempt to fraudulently claim the COVID19 business rate grants.
The Council is also refusing to respond to all NNDR FOI requests and specific requests on COVID19 business rate grants under FOI exemption 31(1)(a). This exemption is used when it is deemed the need to prevent crime (in this case fraud) is greater than the public interest in accountability. There is clear supporting evidence emerging nationally of a number of fraudulent applications, and in a few isolated cases payment, overpayment and double payments. At a time of national crisis combating fraud from the public purse has to take priority.
The Council considers that continuing to publish the NNDR dataset at this time risks its use by fraudsters to identify the business entities entitled to claim grants on their accounts and pursue obtaining those funds illegally. Evidence of scams and fraud relating to the COVID19 business rate grants are currently being reported and investigated nationally.
The Council follows a robust verification procedure to process grant applications ensuring that to date East Northamptonshire has not made a payment to a fraudulent claim. Applying this exemption to this data will help the Council ensure that this remains the case should any extension or further COVID19 grants be made available to local business at a later date.
The Council has provided a link below to nationally published data for both the coronavirus grant schemes. We do not intend to republish the NNDR datasets until after these schemes have closed and the risk of fraud is substantially reduced.