Scientology Critical Information Directory

This site is best viewed using a highly standards-compliant browser

Simple Guide to the City of London Scientology Rates Relief Controversy

Title: Simple Guide to the City of London Scientology Rates Relief Controversy
Date: Thursday, 19 August 2010
Author: Roland Rashleigh-Berry
Main source:

Disclaimer: This archive is presented strictly in the public interest for research purposes. All the copyrights of materials reproduced here are the properties of their respective owners.

This is a simple guide to one of the most controversial advantages that the Church of Scientology (in the form of COSRECI) has in the UK. That is the 80% mandatory business rates relief granted to them by the City of London Corporation (CoL) in October 2006 for their "Ideal Org" at 146 Queen Victoria Street. This mandatory business rates relief saves them more than 270K GBP per year and this has to be paid for by everybody in the UK. Effectively, the CoL has forced everybody in the UK to sponsor what many regard as a "cult".

COSRECI had applied twice to the CoL for mandatory rates relief and been turned down so COSRECI hired a legal team to argue the case that they were a bona fide religion and should not be discriminated against due to recent changes in the law. The CoL accepted this argument and granted them mandatory business rates relief. Mandatory rates relief is given to charities. A religion is a charity (it is referred to in legal circles as the "third head of charity") but "public benefit" is an essential part of being a charity. This "public benefit" element was clarified by the Charities Act 2006 which became law shortly after the CoL decided to grant mandatory rates relief. However, "public benefit" had to be present in any case, before this Act became law.

The CoL accepted that Scientology was a religion but they may not have been aware that it would have to demonstrate that it was "for the public benefit" to receive this rates relief. It is possible they just assumed that because it was a religion then it must be for the public benefit. Their decision cuts across the decision of the Charity Commision (CC) in 1999 that refused charitable status to the newly created "Church of Scientology (England and Wales)" (CoSEW). The CC took a full three years to come to their decision. They carefully considered the arguments for charitable status put forward and consulted case law to decide whether CoSEW was a religion (the third head of charity) or whether it was for the help of the community (the fourth head of charity) and separately whether "public benefit" was demonstrated in either case. They concluded that Scientology was not a religion and that it was not for the help of the community and that public benefit had not been demonstrated in either case. The CC judged CoSEW on the actual activites of the Church of Scientology in the UK at that time and during this time they were controlled by COSRECI so the CC would have similarly refused charitable status for COSRECI had they applied.

It seems that the CoL were not fully aware of the "public benefit" issue and made an honest mistake in granting mandatory rates relief but when the Charities Act 2006 became law later that year the CoL should have revisited their decision and closely considered the "public benefit" aspect in line with the new law and also the statutory guidelines issued by the CC on what constitutes "public benefit". Had they done that they would have concluded that COSRECI failed to demonstrate that it was for the public benefit for exactly the same reasons stated in the CC decision. They did not do this so COSRECI continues to receive a rebate of more than 270K GBP per year paid for by the public.

A campaign is on to get the CoL to fully explain the reasoning behind their decision using Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests but the responses received seem evasive and lacking in any real content. This is resulting in growing frustration and a growing controversy. It is approaching the stage where a Judicial Review might be required to force the CoL to reveal exactly how they came to their conclusion, including how they were satisfied that "public benefit" had been demonstrated, and then, if their argument is flawed, to get this decision overturned by the judge.

The long and difficult to read document about Scientology rates relief in the UK is here:

The very difficult to read full text of the CC's decision to reject charitable status is here:

Copyright (C) Roland Rashleigh-Berry, 19 August 2010.