For some, the SDLT holiday throughout 2020-21 was cause for celebration; for the Land Registry, the increase in transactions was cause for concern. The Land Registry's backlog had already accumulated prior to the pandemic and following the end of the temporary tax break, waiting times for complex requests rose to unprecedented highs of fifteen months (five times longer than in 2018).
As a direct response to these waiting times, the Land Registry has now published a three-year business plan which aims to automate 98% of its services by 2025.
Goals for 2025
Alongside clearing its backlog, the Land Registry's principal goal is to improve the speed of post-completion applications. To support this, the business plan aims to achieve:
- Automation of at least 70% of all ownership changes;
- Reduction of response times for first-time registrations to 65 days;
- Reduction of response times for divisions of existing titles to 46 days;
- Publication of every English and Welsh council's data on land charges to its online register; and
- Digital integration, for instance, by offering access to services through mobile apps.
The Land Registry's plans build on ongoing efforts to digitalise - currently, 90% of its services are automated - and promise to capitalise on already growing efficiency levels. An example of this is by aiming to increase the number of councils providing land charge data to its online register; the data already available from 47 councils saves customers an average of nine days per search.
How will the Land Registry achieve this?
Aside from dedicating 75% of its budget to implementing the three-year plan, the Land Registry's strategy to speed up waiting times rests on two key tenets: digitalisation, as previously seen, and a significant recruitment drive to ensure said digitalisation runs smoothly. A new recruit of particular note is Nilesh Sachdev, who joins as chair to oversee the modernisation process after holding posts at East West Rail Company, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and Network Rail.
As part of the Land Registry's push for optimisation, a timetable has been set out to digitalise its key process; the goal is ensure that cases eligible for automation will cease to be dealt with manually as soon as possible.
By achieving shorter waiting times and an almost entirely automated service offering, the Land Registry aims to have a far wider-reaching impact. Firstly, it hopes to increase trust and confidence in land ownership; secondly, it intends to make conveyancing easier, quicker and more secure; and thirdly, it will strive to foster stability and innovation within the UK's economy.
If nothing else, change is certainly coming to the Land Registry, with technology and efficiency now at the heart its focus.
With property transactions taking record time to complete, it is imperative that we work as partners to innovate and remove friction, so that the process is as quick and painless as possible... That means a step-change in our offering to customers so they receive an outstanding, fully digital service.