My right honourable friend the Minister of State (Michael Wills) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Land Registry is today announcing a five-year programme of reorganisation and transformation that will cut its costs and put it in the best possible position to continue to deliver effectively the service its customers need.
Land Registry believes that the proposals 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. Having looked at a range of possibilities it is proposing to close five local offices and to reduce staff numbers to reflect more efficient working practices. It also intends to embark on a programme of outsourcing some of its support functions and to decrease outgoings further by selling surplus property. These changes will be accompanied by a new customer strategy to ensure Land Registry continues to deliver services that make property transactions easier for all its customers and will also develop additional services to generate extra revenue.
The blueprint for Land Registry’s future published in 2006 recognised the need for it to change to become a smaller, leaner, more flexible organisation. Since then Land Registry has steadily reduced staff numbers but it now needs to move much faster.
Land Registry is proposing, in the first phase of its programme, the closure of its offices in Croydon, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Stevenage and Tunbridge Wells, outsourcing some of its support functions and the sale of surplus property, including its current head office building in central London. Combined with a redundancy scheme for some clerical staff, Land Registry aims to reduce its total staff numbers by a further 1,500 people over the next year and a half. Land Registry will review progress in 2011. Subject to the outcome of that review it envisages the need to reduce staff numbers further resulting in the closure of two further offices in the second phase of the programme.
The proposals announced today, which have been developed by the Land Registry working with the operational efficiency programme, have been accelerated by the property slump—which drastically cut Land Registry’s work and led to a £129.9 million loss including restructuring costs in 2008-09—but they are not a knee-jerk response to it. They will, however, allow Land Registry to respond faster and more efficiently to future fluctuations in the market. 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.
The proposed closure of the five offices will be very unwelcome news for Land Registry staff. Land Registry will do whatever it can to ameliorate the impact on its exceptionally loyal, dedicated and hardworking workforce. Unfortunately, however, compulsory redundancies will undoubtedly be necessary if the proposals put forward are confirmed.
Land Registry believes that the proposals will allow it to make far better use of its buildings and to create significant efficiency savings. Land Registry makes no call on taxpayers’ money but it expects cutting its costs to allow its fees to be significantly reduced over the next five years.
Looking ahead, Land Registry will continue to work with the operational efficiency programme to identify additional opportunities to involve the private sector in its business while recognising that the creation, recording and guaranteeing of registered titles should remain a responsibility of Government. There will be a further statement in the Pre-Budget Report.
Land Registry has today published Land Registry’s Accelerated Transformation Programme: Consultation on office closures, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.