HM Land Registry suffered a new embarrassment today with the news that it had been penalised a record £1,030,176 for breaking Treasury rules about the use of off-payroll contracts in the public sector.
In a written ministerial statement, the chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander (pictured), said that he had identified a breach of 2012 rules stating that ‘board level officials and those with significant financial responsibility’ at public bodies should be on the payroll and taxed as employees.
The ‘senior board member’ had been engaged for longer than the six months allowed for ‘exceptional circumstances’ Alexander said. ‘As a result, a fine of £1,030,176, the largest for an off-payroll breach so far, has been imposed on the Land Registry for breaching these rules.’
Land Registry identified the board member as Camilla Black, interim finance director. A spokesman said: 'This situation is regrettable and it was not an intentional breach of policy. We took measures to avoid the situation, but the process to find a replacement took longer than expected which led to the two month breach. The finance director is a critical role in any organisation and it is important for Land Registry to have the necessary financial support. However, we acknowledge the breach of Treasury rules and therefore accept and support the Treasury’s decision.'
Fee levels for services would not be affected by the fine, the spokesman said.
The agency’s chief executive, Ed Lester, was the subject of controversy in his previous post in 2012 when it emerged that he was engaged off-payroll as interim chief executive at the Student Loans Company.
Land Registry’s parent body, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, is expected to announce next week that it has decided to shelve controversial plans to convert the bulk of the agency into a ‘service delivery company’.