Land Registry ignores ICT worries over reforms

Land Registry is pushing through its plans to centralise ICT for the registration of local land charges in the face of major questions being raised about the proposal by local authorities.

The registry said it intends to take statutory responsibility for a digitised LLC register for England and Wales, leading to a standardised national fee for charges.

But a consultation released alongside the announcement found that 95 per cent of respondents to the consultation opposed the move.

One local authority’s response said: “This proposal would also mean discarding current publicly funded IT systems which perform satisfactorily, whilst committing millions of pounds to a major IT project whose success is far from assured and the need for which is unproven.”

Another council said that the current land charges IT system is linked to each department’s information, with all information stored on a central system within councils.

It said: “Unless Land Registry is going to have a local land charges system that is capable of being linked to every differing council central system, they will need to rely on the individual departments sending information when it is available.

“This will lead to many complications and many opportunities for human error, the local authority will not be able to guarantee that Land Registry will receive every piece of information, it will be an impossible request to put into any service level agreement when you are dealing with so many pieces of information.”

The council said that ensuring information is correct and sent on time will mean extra expense for the local authority with less income to fund it.

Another response argued that the digitisation of registers and associated datasets could be successfully achieved under the current system if local authorities were funded to do so.

It said: “Funding for this would be likely to be less than the implementation of the Land Registry proposals. For example, the £5.4M earmarked by the Land Registry in page 11 of the risk assessment for digitisation of records between 2013/14 and 2015/16 would equate to over £15,000 for each local authority, which would greatly enhance local capacity to transform the service.”

One council response said that its experience of digitisation leads them to believe that the costs of centralisation of the ICT system have been “grossly underestimated” by the registry.
In its announcement, the body said its proposals would lead to an “improved, standardised and digital service and will result in better access to property information and a more streamlined conveyancing process”.

Ed Lester, chief land registrar and chief executive at Land Registry, said:“The proposals will provide a “one stop shop” digital LLC search service, which will improve and standardise the service through faster turnaround times. This is consistent with Government’s digital by default agenda and will ease the process of buying property.”

Preparatory work will begin from April 2015 for a phased migration of the local land charges service to begin later that year, he added.

Colin Marrs

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