With the end of 2016 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top officials to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2017 – and shed some light on their festive favourites. Graham Farrant, chief executive of the Land Registry, takes part in our annual perm secs round-up...
What was your highlight of 2016?
In a year of so many global shocks and unpredicted events it is difficult to pick out any particular moment. However, within HM Land Registry we achieved a lot. We worked with the Office for National Statistics towards making the UK House Price Index into a national statistic; welcomed over 380 staff to our organisation; took our award winning Digital MapSearch service on the road at Civil Service Live and achieved our highest ever engagement score in this year’s Civil Service People Survey. We also found time to complete more than 4.5m registration applications.
Maybe the other highlight has been strengthening our relationships with industry partners including the Law Society, the Council for Personal Search Companies and the Society of Licensed Conveyancers. Land Registry has an important role to play in leading the industry to improve conveyancing and we are, once again, fulfilling that role. Our national conference about the centralisation of Local Land Charges, held in Nottingham, was a particularly positive day and it was good to see the industry getting behind this significant national project.
What has been the most significant change in your organisation this year?
Our most significant change has been a cultural one. Historically we have operated in silos and this year we have been really clear that we want to break down those barriers and focus on working collectively and more effectively for the purpose of improving land registration and recognising that is what we do.
What will be the biggest challenge of 2017 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
We will be bringing forward a new business strategy, focusing not just on modernising our organisation but also about the role we can play to support the housing agenda and improve the conveyancing process. As ever, the challenge of a new, proactive, strategy will be getting the whole organisation and our stakeholders behind the key priorities, as it is through people that strategies actually get delivered.
What was the best Christmas present that you’ve ever given or received? And the worst?
I am not sure that I have ever received a really bad present – generally I am grateful to receive any thought at any time of the year. The best Christmas presents that I have given have always been complete surprises – the iPad for my daughter and her spending at least half an hour just stroking it and saying how beautiful it was, (it was not even switched on at that stage) and the new iPhones for my twin daughters who had believed that their phones were not due for renewal. Funny how the best-received presents are beautifully designed by Apple.
More: Perm secs round-up 2016 – Britain's top civil servants review the year and look ahead to 2017