Talking Local Land Charges with Allison Bradbury, HM Land Registry 

Jessica Kimbell, GovNet

Allison Bradbury spoke as part of the recent Digital Government conference about HM Land Registry’s digital transformation, and how they have been collaborating with local authorities during the pandemic to create a national local land charges service. In our short interview, she expands on these areas, and expands on the benefits that local authorities can gain when migrating to the Local Land Charges Register.

Allison Bradbury is the Head of Local Land Charges Implementation for HM Land Registry 

How did you keep the Local Land Charges (LLC) Programme running during the disruption caused by the pandemic and what were some of the biggest challenges you faced? How are you supporting local authorities as we move through the pandemic?

As far as maintaining our service, the single central digital register has always been built to be as resilient as possible. With 24/7 remote access available, users of our service at both ends were able to continue with business as usual activities. To date we have completed over 74,000 search enquiries.

One of our biggest challenges was the fact that local authorities (LAs) were in just as much a state of flux as rest of the country, whilst also having other work to balance around emergency protocols. Many LAs went through redeployment of staff, prioritisation of workloads and significantly reduced capacity. This meant we as a programme had to wait for this to settle and work out how best to support LAs who were working with us.

We also had to consider how to build relationships and communicate with LAs without being there in person. We have a portfolio of digital resources and online workshops to guide LAs as they prepare their service for migration on to HM Land Registry’s LLC service.

What benefits do local authorities gain in migrating to the Local Land Charges Register?

Each migrated LA gets a fully digital dataset with spatial information. This also supports other services areas in the council, as they can all use the same high-quality data. Authorities can update local land charges on the new register using an intuitive, easy to use system from any location. This added resilience has been particularly important during lockdown. Any charge added, varied or cancelled post-migration will have a digital audit trail available to both LAs and HM Land Registry, so it is clear who made the change. Migrated LAs have received feedback that customer confidence in the quality of the migrated digital data is higher, as they know it has been updated before migration. As of August 2020, the average saved per search is £8.41 in live service areas. Since the launch of the service in July 2018, we have delivered a total saving of over £145,000 for searches purchased in live service areas.

Can you tell us about how you maintain a digital service that is user-focused, providing a data register that is quick and efficient to use?

We have in place a service engagement team who gather feedback on the service from both LAs and customers from the conveyancing sector. This feedback is then analysed and enhancements are planned in conjunction with our stakeholder groups. Due to the pressures of the pandemic, we have several improvements that are now being worked on for deployment.

Making the customer experience as simple as possible is a priority for the programme. Our first enhancement since lockdown sees adjoining charge information, that may not have affected a search area, omitted unless a user specifically expands their search area to include such information. This makes search results simpler and more accessible.

The register is part of the wider Government ambition of making home-buying simpler – how does the programme fit into this?

Independent customer research has confirmed that improving the LLC service reduces friction in the home buying process, making it easier and quicker for individual property buyers to search for, find and complete property purchases.

The LLC service actively supports decisions about place and infrastructure. Making LLC information digitally available, standardised across the country and searchable by geography enables infrastructure and housing developers to make informed decisions about their projects. Due to the immediate availability of LLC data, the service reduces delays in the property transactions with which they decide to go ahead.