Perm Sec Round-Up: Ed Lester, 2014

Written by Civil Service World on 30 December 2014 in Feature

Ed Lester

Chief Executive of the Land Registry

How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2014?

The most significant challenge for Land Registry in 2014 was coping with the significant increase in our workload as a result of a more buoyant property market, against a backdrop of uncertainty for staff while we awaited the outcome of the consultation into our future commercial model. However, thanks to the hard work and dedication of our people, we met and exceeded all of our operational targets and are on track to do the same this year too. 

A further challenge was how to take forward the ‘digital by default’ agenda for one of the largest transactional databases in the world. We have already introduced a small yet well-received digital service called MapSearch, and the IT award-winning Property Alert service, which is also shortlisted for the Civil Service Awards. Meanwhile we’ve launched a new change programme to look at how we can safely take Land Registry on its digital journey. We recently passed (with flying colours) the assessment of our ‘Alpha’ project by the Government Digital Service, which gives us a great foundation to build upon as we start to design more digital services around our users’ needs.

What are your department’s top priorities in the last months before the general election?

Our top priority is always to ensure we continue to safeguard and maintain the Land Register, where 24m titles (representing 85% of land and property in England and Wales) are documented. Clear information about ownership (and interests affecting land), guaranteed by the state, underpins the property market – which is really important to our economy. 
Continuing our work towards providing more digital land registration services and promoting the use of our land and property data as part of the government’s transparency agenda is critical. Before the election, we hope to receive Royal Assent for legislation which will enable us to expand the range of land and property services we can offer in the future: one of the first areas we are looking at is whether we can work with 350 local authorities to create a digital register to house 1m local land charge searches that are undertaken annually by conveyancers as part of property transactions and remortgages.

What’s your favourite Christmas treat? And what makes you say: ‘Bah, humbug!’?

The thing I love about Christmas is being able to take a few days off and spend some quality time with my family, and plenty of Christmas pud! However, trying to negotiate through the hordes of Christmas shoppers during the festive season can be a bit testing! 

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