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Creating a national service for Local Land Charges

16th December 2015

Imagine that for every Local Land Charges (LLC) search, you could apply to a single source charging a consistent fee and guaranteeing a set turnaround time for an ‘official search’. That is what Land Registry has been working towards since it was proposed in January 2014 that we should become the sole registering authority for LLC.

LR_LLCCurrently, each local authority in England and Wales maintains a register of charges affecting the land and property within their area. That means you and your colleagues can face widely varying ways in which Manchester councils offer their search service. Our research with local authorities has shown differences in fees for searches ranging from £3 to £76. As the processing in local authorities is characterised by significant levels of manual intervention, turnaround time can fluctuate from one to 20 plus days. This is also dependent on the volume of searches they need to process and the associated availability of staff.

What are the plans to improve the service?

Our key objective is the replacement of the current fragmented service with a single digital platform. The passing, in February 2015, of the Infrastructure Bill into law means that Land Registry will be able to implement a national standard of service delivery, including price, timescales and data format, for all migrated local authorities. It also means that there will be a single digital service, with easier access to property information supporting a simpler conveyancing process.

Once the investment in the creation of the digital register has been recouped, average fees will be significantly lower than the existing service. With more than a million searches performed every year, this will be of significant benefit to both businesses and homeowners.

The proposals also support wider government priorities:

  • to improve the ease of conveyancing transactions in the UK
  • to digitise government services
  • to make public data more accessible for the benefit of the wider economy

We have had constructive discussions with the Local Government Association, which represents local authorities. They have agreed to be one of the founding members of our new LLC Advisory Board representing key stakeholders from the Local Land Charges Institute, the Council of Property Search Organisations, Land Data and the District Councils’ Network. The Board aims to meet monthly with further members from conveyancing organisations that join as the policy develops.

Property information and serving the conveyancing market are our core business. The vast majority of LLC customers are also our existing customers, so they will already be familiar with our channels.

We have the knowledge and expertise in developing, holding and maintaining complex digital registers, providing electronic access to data and processing millions of applications every year. We are also trusted by our customers to maintain the integrity of the register, which has been at the heart of what we do for over 150 years.

When will these changes start to have an impact on the market?

In the short term, it is business as usual. Customers will continue to buy LLC searches from their existing channels and search suppliers.

Behind the scenes, we are identifying the data held by individual local authorities. To support this work, we have a dedicated team in place which has already met with over 90 per cent of local authorities, engaging particularly with advocates who have managed the digitisation of their LLC registers. Having seen the benefits of a digital system for their customers, the advocates are happy to help develop the new service.

What next?

While the LLC Register system will be usable in Wales, our initial focus is on providing a new LLC service in England. The digitisation and import of data within the 22 Welsh authorities will be a separate piece of work following discussions with the Welsh Local Government Association.

Other next steps include the launch of a full public consultation on the LLC Rules in 2016, because secondary legislation is necessary to regulate a new national service. The earliest it will be possible to begin migration from local authorities to Land Registry is 2017.

The LLC programme is one of the biggest projects in Land Registry’s history, and shows the trust the government places in our ability to deliver these changes. We will continue to communicate with the conveyancing market as LLC becomes part of our core operations and statutory function.

If you would like to find out more, contact: llcproject@landregistry.gsi.gov.uk or visit: gov.uk.

 

Catherine Vaughan, Finance Director and Senior Responsible Owner for the Local Land Charges Programme

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