District councils have urged the government to halt the transfer of local land charge registers from councils to the Land Registry, arguing it may damage the housing market.
In a letter to business minister Matthew Hancock, District Councils Network (DCN) chair Neil Clarke (Con) said the change would be damaging because it depended on unproven information technology.
The searches cover planning conditions and are conducted for almost every residential property transaction.
A proposal to strip councils of their role in conducting the searches was included in the Queen’s Speech in June.
It sparked opposition from the LGA, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers and professional body the Council of Property Search Organisations.
Councils feared they would not merely lose search income but would be expected to employ staff to collate land charge information locally, only to have to hand it to the registry to sell.
Solace director Graeme McDonald said at the time: “There is a real risk that the government will nationalise income from this service but not the full cost of delivery.”
Cllr Clarke’s letter to the minister said: “I wish to make clear that the DCN is not seeking your intervention for reasons of self-interest because local authorities currently maintain local land charges registers.
“It is because we believe the damage that could be caused to the operation of the housing market and thus to the national economy is so substantial should there be technical problems with an as yet untried and untested IT system that the risk is too great to be acceptable.”
The letter reiterated concerns raised earlier this year about the registry’s IT plans by the Local Land Charges Institute – which represents officers working in this field – which said: “Land Registry now proposes to abandon not only its nascent system but also all the existing tried and tested local authority systems, and develop a completely new untried and untested system.
“This may or may not, in a live environment, be able to handle the nationwide demand for searches and the volume of minute by minute amendments to the registers that ensure their currency, accuracy and reliability.”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “Implementation of the new register will be carried out on a phased basis, working with all interested parties, to ensure full continuity of service.”