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Land Registry

Volume 507: debated on Wednesday 17 March 2010

Land Registry is announcing today the conclusions of its consultations on the five-year programme of reorganisation and transformation that that was set out in my earlier statement on 22 October 2009, Official Report, columns 76-77WS.

Land Registry believes that its decisions will help create an organisation that can meet the challenges of a developing property market, that can live within its means and that can continue to provide an outstanding service to its customers.

Land Registry has been involved in detailed discussions with its staff and their union representatives covering all the proposals since October and held a public consultation on the proposals to close five offices. Over 350 responses were received to the public consultation and Land Registry has made changes as a result. In addition, almost 600 members of the public and businesses took part in questionnaire surveys aimed at assessing the impact of the proposed office closures, and of these, over 100 were engaged in follow-up telephone surveys and a further 36 business customers in focus groups.

Land Registry has recognised particular concerns that the initial proposals could have left them with no presence in the south east of England (with the future of its head office being uncertain at that time). This would have meant that access to certain services that are currently provided face-to-face would have been restricted in this area.

In response to those concerns, Land Registry will now keep open their offices at Croydon and Peterborough. Land Registry will now only be closing two offices completely in 2011, those at Stevenage and Tunbridge Wells. In addition, the main Portsmouth office will close by 28 February 2011. Land Registry does, however, intend to retain a reduced presence in Portsmouth, co-located with Portsmouth city council, until 31 March 2013. Land Registry has decided upon this approach in recognition of representations that, due to particular local circumstances, a longer period of transition was desirable.

Land Registry will close one of its offices in Plymouth, relocating the staff affected to its other main building in the city.

The conclusion of the head office review has resulted in a decision to co-locate this with the Croydon local office. Discussions will be now held with staff and their unions, and work will be done to ensure that customers using the contact centre at Lincoln’s Inn Fields are alerted to the changes.

Land Registry’s board also recognises that the prospect of a further two office closures beyond 2011 was creating particular uncertainty. Therefore, further staff reductions beyond 2011 will be achieved as far as possible through targeted voluntary redundancy severance, rather than office closures.

A combination of office closures and voluntary severance means Land Registry will reduce by 1400 staff, to 4600 by 2011. Additional voluntary severance between 2011 and 2014 should result in a further reduction to 3800. The staff numbers used here are on a full-time equivalent (FTE) basis. The total number of staff in post, taking account of part-time working etc, is estimated at just over 5,000 by the end of 2011, and 4,200 by the end of 2014. This decision means that a third less staff will be facing compulsory redundancy than was originally envisaged.

The proposals regarding the outsourcing of certain support functions have been confirmed.

The decisions announced today retain a greater office presence than the original proposals and rely more on the use of voluntary redundancies, but are still expected to save around £500 million over 10 years.

Final decisions, following consultation, should mitigate significantly the impact on Land Registry’s loyal and hard-working staff. There will be more opportunities for staff to apply for voluntary severance. For those facing compulsory redundancy, there will be more opportunities for re-deployment in Land Registry or to other Government Departments, and a comprehensive support package is being put in place—including outplacement support, opportunities for further education and financial advice.

Land Registry believes that the decisions will allow it to make far better use of its buildings and to create significant efficiency savings.

Building as robust and sustainable an organisation as possible will allow Land Registry to be proactive rather than passive in the face of market changes and to be in good shape for a recovery in the property market. Land Registry will be formulating a clear vision and strategic plan of delivery over the coming months to position itself for the future. Land Registry will continue to work to meet the needs of its customers and harness technology to build services around those needs.

The Lord Chancellor also approved changes to Land Registry’s governance arrangements that will result in a new Land Registry board, chaired by a non-executive chairman and with more non-executive directors. The new arrangements will strengthen Land Registry’s corporate governance and ensure that the actions of the chief land registrar and his management team are subject to appropriate scrutiny.

Land Registry have today published “Land Registry’s Accelerated Transformation Programme: Consultation Responses Report”, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.