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Northgate calls for level playing field in property search market

Meeting the needs of consumers for high-quality property search services requires a level playing field for the public and private sectors, Northgate Information Solutions said recently.

In a response to the Ministry of Justice consultation on local authority property search services, Northgate welcomed the proposals to charge for access to ‘unrefined’ data on a cost recovery basis as a means of delivering a fair and competitive market.

However, it voiced concern that fees based solely on cost recovery may disadvantage local authorities that want to offer ‘refined’ searches to the market and called on the government to produce guidance for those wishing to group together to develop these services.

To ensure the operation of a fair, efficient and effective property search market, Northgate also called for:

· greater freedom for local authorities in the pricing of compiled property search reports to enable true competition with the private sector;

· local authorities to be able to charge up to cost recovery locally for personal searches of the local land charges register;

· the calculation for cost recovery to include the cost of complying with monitoring and reporting demands;

· a clear and consistent roadmap to be produced by government to support local authorities in increasing the volume of automated searches;

· consideration of how links to existing national programmes, such as the National Land and Property Gazetteer, or information assets could provide an incentive to modernise delivery of property search information.

Russell Osborne, Managing Director of Land & Property at Northgate Public Services, said today:

“Northgate firmly believes that delivering effective property search services that meet the needs of consumers requires transparency, consistency and the operation of fair and competitive markets. We welcome the government’s proposals on charging as a means of delivering a level playing field for the public and private sectors. However, we would like to see additional guidance produced for local authorities to ensure they are not disadvantaged in the market for ‘refined’ searches and that effective competition operates throughout the property search market.”

For further information:
Fellows’ Associates

Naomi Stevenson 020 7849 3508; 07966 890403;

Kuntal Biswas 020 7849 3347; 07930 566291;

Notes to Editors:

1. Northgate Information Solutions is a leading provider of innovative services to the public sector and utilities markets. It is committed to high quality public services and understands the public sector. That knowledge is core to its business.

2. Northgate’s task is to enhance public value through the intelligent use of people and technology, and to share in the economic and social benefits that this brings.

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