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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Land Registry visit

Back in August I carried out a visit to the Land Registry for Wales, which is based in my region, to find out more about the proposed merger of their two Swansea offices and the subsequent reduction in their work force over the next ten years. I met with management and the Trade Unions.

A couple of weeks later I was asked to write an article for their Intranet in the format of a question and answer session to explain why I had carried out the visit and what I had found out. I replied the same day. For some reason my account does not appear to have found favour with management and has failed to appear even though it is nearly two weeks since it was written.

Although it is unlikely that many Land Registry staff visit this site I thought it worth reproducing the piece for wider circulation:

How and why did the visit come about?

I asked to meet the Trade Unions, the Area Manager and District Land Registrar because I was concerned about plans to merge the two Swansea offices and effectively cut the number of posts by 230 over the next ten years.

What happened during your visit and what did you do?

I had an initial meeting with Management where we discussed their plans for the future. I was told that reductions in posts will take place through natural wastage and were largely a consequence of changes in the way that the Land Registry carry out their work. I was briefed on the development of e-conveyancing and the future accommodation needs of the Land Registry offices in Swansea.

In my meeting with the unions I had a rather different story. They are sceptical that the age profile of staff will allow natural wastage on the scale envisaged by management and believe that changes to reporting procedures and sickness policy mean that staff will be forced out so as to help meet the targets set by management.

The Unions are opposed to the policy of natural wastage at Swansea, due to the fact that the area is economically deprived, and they do not wish to see TBG (the office in Swansea High Street) closed down. They are also concerned at some recent appointments covering both offices that they say indicates that management’s mind is made up on the way forward even though the strategy is still out to consultation.

Following these meetings I looked around the office, talking to staff and viewing the area where members of the public come in with general enquiries.

How long did the visit last?

The meetings lasted about one and a half hours and I spent just over an hour touring the office subsequent to that.

When did it take place?

The morning of Tuesday 15th August.

What were your impressions of Land Registry?

Having spent 16 years working the Land Registry for Wales prior to my election to the Welsh Assembly in 1999, many of the staff there are known to me, whilst the layout of the office, with the exception of the contact centre, is still very familiar.

Things have moved on quite a lot in terms of single handling, computerisation and cross-discipline working, developments that were still in their infancy when I left. There was a fair bit of discontent about the new HR Advance system (a new computerised time-keeping system) but by and large the atmosphere was much the same as I remember it.

The new e-conveyancing project seems interesting though I have questions as to how far it will empower solicitors and how a balance will be struck between what can be done externally and what work will be left with staff. I am also impressed with the landregistryonline website which I have used in my representative role as for some reason constituents come to me with boundary and other land disputes, a possible consequence of me having spent a decade doing R28 examination of title perhaps.
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