STRATFORD District Council has been branded the slowest authority in the country for carrying out land charge searches.
The council was slated for taking 95 days to complete the search, which must be carried out before a mortgage is granted, to provide details about a property’s history which could affect the price. This is compared to the government turn-around target of ten days which is met in 11 per cent of cases in Stratford.
The research was carried out by property site Move iQ, co-founded by TV property expert Phil Spencer who accused local authorities of adding to Britain’s ‘broken’ housing market.
But SDC planning and building spokesman Coun Darren Pemberton stressed the 95 days was based on the oldest outstanding search at that time, and it had since reduced the average time to 37 working days – which he admitted was still not good enough.
A new IT system costing £315,000, to improve search times and replace the ‘antiquated’ paper based system, is set to go live before the end of this year.
Coun Pemberton said while the new system was a solution, there was no ‘shortcut’ to delivering a speedier service.
He added: “Unfortunately, the council’s response statement that would have clarified the position and highlight the corrective actions and investment already made to solve the issue was omitted from the article.
“This has given the erroneous impression Stratford District Council is unaware of or does not care about providing a good service. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is not where we want to be as an authority.
“I regret that decisions not to invest in this service by previous administrations some years ago have had a negative impact on service delivery, notwithstanding the hard work of that team.
“Moving house is stressful enough at the best of times. I have previously acknowledged that delays in processing some land charges applications are unacceptable. I repeat that apology and want to reassure people that this matter is being taken seriously and that there is a plan in place to solve the problem.”
He said the council was not aware of delays directly resulting in the loss of a house sale.
But Lib-Dem district councillor Jenny Fradgely argued delays had caused ‘major problems’ for people trying to buy and sell houses in the district.
She added: “I’ve been contacted by a resident over this and asked whether the council will be paying compensation for extra costs incurred through the delays.”