The specialist regulator for conveyancers has outlined its objectives for 2016 following a year of ‘significant’ change.
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers will focus on education reform, financial protection and regulation, according to its 2016 business plan. There will also be a review of regulatory fees framework ‘on the back of reductions in staff numbers and streamlining of CLC activity’ in 2015.
The CLC expects to complete reform of the provision of education leading to qualification as a CLC lawyer this year. Education and delivery assessment will be provided by SQA (Scottish Qualification Authority).
CLC chief executive Sheila Kumar said the reform programme was a ‘significant step that will bring clearer separation of the responsibility for education and licensing’.
‘It made sense in the early years of the [CLC’s existence] that we should also be charged with ensuring a steady growth in the new profession,’ Kumar said.
‘Now that profession is maturing and the time is right for change that will deliver a more contemporary educational experience.’
Kumar said the regulator needed to develop a qualification leading to licencing as a probate practitioner, after securing the power to issue standalone licences for probate by parliament last year.
Further developments include new qualifications leading to recognition as a conveyancing or probate technician in response to ‘employer demand’, and new apprenticeships ’that will lead to recognition as a probate or conveyancing technician or licence as a licensed conveyancer’.
Other strategic objectives include revisiting the CLC Handbook ‘not only to seek out deregulatory opportunities for reducing the burden on conveyancers and probate practitioners, but also to look for positive changes we can make to continue our mission to foster innovation and competition in legal services’, Kumar said.
The regulator will also look at the ‘functioning’ of professional indemnity insurance to ensure arrangements ‘do not set up a disproportionate barrier to entry to the legal services market or change within it’.
The CLC has also raised ‘long-held concerns’ about the operation of lender panels for mortgage work with the Financial Conduct Authority and Competition and Markets Authority. It said there was a risk lender panels created ‘additional quasi-regulatory burdens on the legal professions that are neither transparent nor subject to the rigour of oversight that applies to the work of frontline regulators’.
After relocating from Chelmsford to London in August, the CLC’s 2015 annual report shows that it realised over £1m from the sales of its Chelmsford office and a nearby storage unit. The council ‘will consider how best to make use of these funds in the interests of the profession and clients during 2016’.
The CLC welcomed the Treasury’s decision to consult on changes to the filing and payment process of stamp duty land tax, which are expected to come into effect in 2017 to 2018. This includes reducing the filing and payment window from 30 to 14 days.
The regulator said 14 days would help to ‘tighten a loophole’ that facilitated non-compliance.
Following discussions with HM Revenue & Customs and Land Registry, the CLC was ‘pleased’ that it will no longer be possible to register title with the Land Registry until stamp duty has been paid.