Land Registry must consider all alternatives to closure of regional offices

5 February 2010
For immediate release

HM Land Registry's consultation on the potential closure of five offices in Croydon, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Stevenage and Tunbridge Wells must be a real process and not a sham, the FDA said today, as the union prepares to meet Michael Willis MP, the government minister responsible for HM Land Registry. The FDA is the union representing senior managers and professionals in the civil service, including lawyers and other senior staff in the Land Registry.

Ro Marsh, FDA national officer, said: "We are seeking to ensure that HM Land Registry takes account of all the responses to the consultation on the proposed office closures.

"The FDA - through its HM Land Registry branch - has put forward an alternative approach that would retain the existing regional networks and achieve any necessary reduction in staff numbers through natural wastage and targeted voluntary redundancy and early retirement schemes.

"Where there is a surplus of office space in HM Land Registry buildings, the agency should move to smaller rented premises in the same area or enter into sale-and-leaseback of the necessary space where appropriate.

"We are seeking a meeting with Michael Willis MP, the responsible minister, to draw attention to the serious concerns of FDA members and to urge him make sure all alternatives to closure are considered before a final decision is made."

Notes for editors:

1. The FDA is the trade union and professional body representing 18,000 of the UK's senior civil and public servants. Our members include policy advisors, senior managers, government lawyers, tax inspectors, economists, statisticians, accountants, special advisers, diplomats, crown prosecutors and NHS managers.

2. The FDA's alternative to HM Land Registry's Accelerated Transformation Programme

FDA response to HM Land Registry ATP consultation

FDA briefing on HM Land Registry ATP proposals

Key points
Land Registry's role in the property and mortgage markets is vital. The Board's proposals to cut staff numbers and dismiss experienced staff will put at risk Land Registry's ability to deliver the necessary level of customer service and to maintain confidence in the register as the property market recovers.

The proposed job cuts will do nothing to prevent "privatisation" of Land Registry.

The calculation as to the number of jobs that can be slashed lacks any sound evidential base and fails to properly take into account the inevitability of an improvement in the property market.

The proposed means to cut staff numbers is indiscriminate and will lead to the loss of members of staff whose skills and experience are still needed.

The forced redundancy of experienced, skilled staff and the replacement of those staff with untrained new staff will lead to unnecessary training and recruitment costs being incurred.

The loss of skilled, experienced staff will damage the level of customer service that Land Registry is able to provide.

Contrary to the claims made, the proposals will do nothing to tackle the perceived "age profile" problem.

The productivity improvements predicted by the proposals are not supported by the evidence.

The proposals will cause irreparable harm to staff morale and to confidence in the Land Registry Board.

The proposals do not maximise the potential to generate capital receipts.

The problem of surplus accommodation space exists across the entire Land Registry estate but the proposals do not effectively address the problem across the entire estate.

There is no evidential basis for asserting that a network comprising only a few "larger" offices would be cheaper or more efficient than a network of more, but smaller, offices.

The socio-economic impact of office closures has not been sufficiently taken into account.

The significant benefits of the Land Registry's regional network of offices and local contacts and relationships will be lost.

Public accessibility will be lost for vulnerable members of society, who are most likely to need to visit a local office personally.

Land Registry's cash reserves will be drastically reduced, putting Land Registry at significant financial risk.

Land Registry does not appear to be currently trading at a loss.

Arguments are now being advanced to support the Board's proposals that do not accord with the justification set out in the Business Case.

There are other means to reduce costs that are more cost-effective and will be less damaging to the level of service that Land Registry is able to provide.

3. The FDA (formerly the First Division Association) should be referred to simply as "The FDA" and can be described as "the senior public servants' union".

4. For further information contact:

Ro Marsh, FDA national officer, tel: 020 7401 5564.
Oliver Rowe, FDA communications manager, tel: 020 7401 5588 or 07590 838696.