The city of Norwich has become the sixth part of the UK to switch from council Local Land Charges to digital searches handled by HM Land Registry - but the programme overall is running behind schedule.
Warwick, Liverpool, Blackpool and the Isles of Scilly are four councils already on the scheme, along with the City of London Corporation.
“Some of our local land charges data was computerised but most was held in paper records, some going back to the 1950s. By updating and digitising all our local land charges data, we are providing confidence in the accuracy of the data and helping to improve the efficiency of buying and selling property in the Norwich area” according to Laura McGillivray, chief executive officer at Norwich council.
The programme of switching from manual to digital - what HM Land Registry calls its “digital transformation” - is now a year old; although there have been recent innovations, including successfully tested buying a house using blockchain technology, the number of local authorities coming on board has been slow.
Back in November the Registry said that 26 local authorities would be on board “in the next few months” - that was supposed to be by the end of March this year - but also admitted at the time that the full roll-out of its Local Land Charges digital register across the entire UK could take up to seven years.
Now a statement to mark the first anniversary of the programme says: “This is HM Land Registry’s first new register for 90 years, the first fully digital register with spatial information, and is something we are very proud of. It supports government’s aim to simplify the homebuying process and digitise services, making them more accessible to customers.”
It then goes on to admit to significant delays - although it justifies these by saying they are required to get the changes right as local authorities migrate across.
“We’ve learnt that preparing and transforming the data is trickier than we thought, and it takes a lot of effort from a lot of people to get it right. So for the rest of the year, we’ve decided that we are going to reduce the planned number of migrations to the new register” says the statement.
“We are going to invest more in working with a wider range of local authorities to assess their data before they commit to migrate. We have developed a data analysis dashboard tool which will help with this. This way we can get a better idea of the amount of effort required on both sides to clean up, transform and migrate the data. This will be better for customers in the long run and will give us and the market a better idea of how to shape the future migration path.”
The statement now gives no timescale at all for future councils to join the scheme.