Land Registry promises fee cut after taking axe to costs
Land Registry fees will fall by an average of 10% next year thanks to savings made over the past five years, according to the agency’s latest annual report. However the registry said it could not say exactly which fees will be cut and by how much until a fees order is laid before parliament.
The registry’s annual report, published yesterday, shows income rose to £359.3m over the past year, from £351m the previous year.
A cost-cutting programme that began in 2007/08, which included 44% staff cuts and the sale of buildings, enabled it to convert last year’s £2.9m deficit into a retained surplus of £67.8m. Operating costs fell to £257.7m last year from £309m in 2009/10. Property sales over the year brought in £13.4m; the registry also closed offices in Stevenage and Tunbridge Wells.
The report says: ‘The efficiency savings we have made will allow us to reduce our fees by an average of around 10% in 2012/13. This has been our intention since the fee order of 2009 increased our fees in response to the substantial fall in our income caused by the property slump.’
Compensation payments fell slightly in the year: 2011/12 the registry paid out £9.27m in compensation for 935 claims, compared with £9.42m for 963 claims in 2010/11. Fifty two of those claims were due to fraud or forgery, totalling £6.28m, down from the £6.7m paid out for the 71 cases of fraud and forgery in the previous year.
The report says that fraud continued to present ‘significant challenges’ over the year, in which 36 fraudulent applications on properties worth an estimated £26.5m were either cancelled or rejected. In the year a staff member was convicted of frauds committed in 2010 and jailed for three years and nine months.
The registry, which celebrates its 150th anniversary in October, underwent other changes over the year with the appointment of a new land registrar, Malcolm Dawson, and its first non-executive chair, Mark Boyle. Under the government’s open data programme it became a founder member of the Public Data Group, along with Companies House, the Met Office and Ordnance Survey, which have been told to provide more data free or at reduced cost.
During the year Land Registry released two sets of data free for reuse - Transaction Data and Price Paid Data. These will now be published each month with the House Price Index under the umbrella name of Market Trend Data.
The land register now comprises more than 23 million titles, covering over 12.2m hectares, which is approximately 79% of the land mass of England and Wales.
The report is at the Land Registry site.