Our Annual Report and Accounts 2020 to 2021 sets out how our response to the pandemic dovetailed with our ongoing transformation programme to progress towards a digital future.
This past year has been momentous for everyone. Expectations of how property sales could and should be carried out have changed forever as the advantages of paperless transactions became ever clearer. We responded by investing in an acceleration to our digital transformation which would both improve the organisation and support the creation of a truly digital property market.
Our critical role was brought into sharp focus during the pandemic. Our priority over the last year has been to ensure that property transactions were not interrupted, and that we continued to deliver a high-quality service to our customers. The automation of our most used services ensured that property transactions could continue during the periods of national and local lockdown. We transformed from an almost entirely office-based operation to one where over 90% of our colleagues could deliver our services remotely.
As the only organisation involved in nearly every property transaction in England and Wales, we are uniquely well placed to drive and deliver the changes required. We’ve worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure our work in this area meets our customers’ needs. This collaborative approach has been essential as we responded to the various events of the last year while introducing innovative new approaches which could bring huge benefits to the conveyancing process in the future.
Chief Executive and Chief Land Registrar Simon Hayes said:
I take great pride in the way in which we have worked together with colleagues, customers and stakeholders, in a true spirit of collaboration to ensure the property market in England and Wales could continue to operate effectively.
We introduced electronic signatures and digital identity checking as a quick response to lockdown restrictions. We heard that this was a top priority for our customers. These are now two important and permanent pieces of the digital conveyancing picture, enabling wholly online and paperless transactions.
We introduced a new tool to portal, called View My Applications, which allows customers to quickly see the status of all their current applications on one screen. This year we launched our breakthrough Digital Registration Service. This features automated error checking which helps customers ensure the correct information is provided in each application they submit, reducing subsequent delays. The service won the Delivering Excellent Customer Experience category of the Real IT Awards 2021.
We increased our capacity by recruiting more than 500 caseworkers and invested in our people by launching the Land Registration Academy, a national centre of excellence to oversee and support our technical training, development and sharing expert knowledge. We also continue to recruit expert lawyers from across the sector to meet the demands of today’s complex casework.
The vast majority of our colleagues had never worked from home before March 2020, but they have embraced remote working technology and felt more connected to the organisation and each other than ever before. Our staff engagement score in the 2020 Civil Service People Survey was 71%, which is both an 8% improvement on 2019/20 and the highest we have ever recorded, placing us 18th out of 106 governmental organisations that participated in the survey, and first among similar organisations.
Our colleagues’ hard work and initiative in serving our customers during the pandemic year are reflected in our performance indicators. Customer trust remained high – 79% of customers rated us as either good or excellent in ensuring the integrity and accuracy of the Land Register, 2% higher than in 2019/20. Indemnity claims and other indicators for error and fraud remain generally very low and consistent with prior years.