HM Land Registry is to bring its outsourced IT back in house to comply with the government's 'presumption' against large IT contacts. The agency's 2013-14 annual report, published last week, says that "following recent guidance issued by Cabinet Office on the greater use of small and medium sized entities in delivering public services" a £50m contract with Steria will not be extended as planned when it expires this year.
The private-public partnership contract, dating from 2009, covers managed ICT services for the organisation's distributed IT infrastructure and extranet. These systems have underpinned the agency's move to a an electronic service.
According to the annual report, "Preparations are being made for the service to move in-house whilst the future strategy is determined. This includes both the current services Steria provide and any third-party contracts within the current agreement."
The decision comes at a critical time for Land Registry, whose chief executive last week announced his departure after little more than a year in post. His announcement follows the government's rejection of a proposal to transfer the bulk of the registry's activities to a 'service delivery company' with private shareholdings. In a foreword to the report, Mark Boyle, chair of the board, hints at the furore surrounding the privatisation plan. 'The uncertainty over our future status made it perhaps unsurprising that we missed our staff engagement target,' he commented.
Meanwhile the agency is pressing ahead with a major IT-based programme to centralise the Local Land Charges register, currently maintained by local authorities. The report says that a prototype register has been successfully evaluated. A contractor will be appointed next year, when legislation to enable the transfer, the Infrastructure Bill, becomes law. The bill is due to have its second House of Commons reading in December.
The registry has said it is keen to involve outside experts in the local land charges programme. An external advisory board will be in place by next month.