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£26m fund to support take-up of local land charges register

Land Registry: National register feasible

The government has unveiled a £26m fund to support local authorities in migrating to the national local land charges (LLC) register.

HM Land Registry (HMLR) said the register would ensure the homebuying process “becomes quicker and simpler for everyone”.

Six months ago, it announced its ambition to create the central register, bringing together information from all 336 local authorities, by 2025.

Under the Infrastructure Act 2015, responsibility for LLC registers was transferred to HMLR in a phased approach.

The first transfer – from Warwick District Council – was in summer 2018, since when a further 16 local authorities have transferred their data or agreed to do so shortly. Stratford-on-Avon District Council does so today, with Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council following suit later this month.

HMLR said this funding “makes that target more achievable”.

Local authorities that transfer their local land charges data to the register within an agreed timescale will receive transition payments.

They will also continue to receive existing burdens payments – these are available when central government requires or exhorts local authorities to adopt a policy or initiative which increases the cost of providing services.

The overall financial support available to local authorities for getting their LLC information in shape is now more than £40m.

Karina Singh, HMLR’s director of transformation, said: “We understand the uncertain economic landscape facing many local authorities and the resourcing issues this creates…

“We want to help buyers get the information they need, in a faster and simpler manner. Research suggests that 6% of property transactions fail, costing between £700 and £2,700 per transaction. By enabling earlier access to LLC information these costs should reduce, making the conveyancing process better for all parties.

“All local authorities who migrate their LLC service to the central register will qualify for a payment when they meet their scheduled milestones. This will give them greater financial certainty that they can meet incidental costs, when seamlessly moving their service to the LLC register.”

In its annual report last year [1], HMLR said it intended to “industralise” the transfer of local authority data to the LLC register, after the first phase saw nine local authorities and almost 400,000 charges migrated to the new register to 31 March 2020.

“The new service proves that a national service is feasible, providing immediate and lasting benefits for customers,” it said.

Problems with obtaining LLC searches quickly – particularly among those local authorities that still employ a paper-based approach – have contributed to delays with completing property purchases in recent months under the pressure of the stamp duty holiday.