Infrastructure Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by Chiltern District Council (IB 46)

Infrastructure Bill – Clause 29 and Schedule 4 – Land Registry and Local Land Charges – Submission to the Infrastructure Bill Committee by Chiltern District Council

Chiltern District Council is aware of the Local Land Charge Institute’s submission and supports the contents thereof. However, we do wish to submit our own comments about our own particular performance and our concerns regarding the proposal.

Chiltern District Council’s primary concern with the proposal is that it will inevitably result in a reduction in service levels for the customer. Customers can currently submit and receive both the LLC1 and CON29 elements of the local search together, to the local authority, as a convenient package. Land Registry only proposes to provide the LLC1, leaving the customer to submit a separate CON29 search to the local authority. This is a clear reduction in service levels. We are therefore concerned that the proposed takeover of the Local Land Charges function by Land Registry would lead to a more fragmented and less reliable service than currently exists and would result in a poorer service for the property-buying public and the businesses that support them.

Chiltern District Council deals with approximately 2200 searches a year consistently achieving a turnaround time of 1 working day. We have a high level of customer satisfaction with our service which only costs £92.50 for a full Official Local Authority Search. The data required to perform the service is held electronically and the process is almost entirely automated, although the responses are checked for accuracy before dispatch, resulting in a high quality service. The service accommodates customers who wish to requisition only a selection of enquiries on the CON29 form as well as those who require the full search. Online submission is available and is just being enhanced so that there is both a ‘pay now’ and a ‘pay later’ option. Personal searches are accommodated without delay by means of a dedicated computer terminal in the Council’s reception area, where personal search agents can access a ‘self-service’ view of the Local Land Charges Register without having to make an appointment.

The service provided by Chiltern District Council meets the requirements of customers and would in our view be harmed by the Land Registry proposal. If the Government desires greater consistency in output and fees, this can be achieved by prescribing the format in which responses are delivered to the customer (although, in reality, the format is already standardised by virtue of responses being given to standard questions) and by setting a nationally prescribed fee.

If the proposal goes ahead, local authorities will be left with the burden of providing data to Land Registry to ensure an up to date register. They will inevitably have to deal with any queries arising from the customer after the search responses are received, which they will remain best placed to answer in view of the local knowledge within the teams and the interrelationship with other information held by the relevant local authority.

It is extremely important that the cost of continuing to support the LLC1 function does not fall upon local authorities who will no longer have any prospect of covering their costs by charging appropriate fees.

Chiltern District Council officers recently met with representatives from Land Registry regarding this project and were very disappointed to find that the proposals will fragment our existing service to customers and the timescale for implementation stretches over some seven years.

January 2015

Prepared 15th January 2015