A major digital project at Land Registry is at risk after two key executives on the programme left the organisation due to their tax arrangements.
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The contracts of the digital project portfolio director, Richard Lundie-Sadd, and interim chief technology officer (CTO) Gordon McMullan were terminated by Land Registry last Friday, 15 August, for failure to comply with government policy over staff tax status.
Both IT executives were closely involved with the new LR Connect project which is intended to transform Land Registry business strategy by developing new digital services and tools. A Computer Weekly source close to the project said up to £3m has been spent on the LR Connect project this financial year.
The project now faces further uncertainty after as many as 25 IT contractors at Land Registry could potentially see their contracts terminated this week
Failure to comply with government policy
Computer Weekly has seen internal emails confirming the departure of Lundie-Sadd and McMullan. The email stated that the termination of the contracts resulted from a “failure to comply with government policy which requires that all contractors working in the civil service must able to provide assurance that their tax affairs are compliant.”
Peter Hocknell, head of pensions and investments, wrote in the email: “This was a disappointing outcome but necessary, given the risk that this would have created for the organisation.”
A further email seen by Computer Weekly was sent to technical contractors asking them to provide their tax assurance by Friday 22 August. Land Registry has confirmed that if these contractors cannot provide the necessary assurance their contracts will also be terminated.
“We are currently reviewing the situation for 25 staff paid off-payroll,” said a Land Registry spokeswoman. “Not all of these contractors are working on LR Connect which is in place to deliver our business strategy. We are committed to ensuring the success of our business strategy. The strategy is underway and we have the necessary structures in place to deliver it.”
Lundie-Sadd told Computer Weekly his departure was due to civil service policy on interim managers. He said: “Please note that I was not and am not tax non-compliant. The issue was more to do with Cabinet Office policy on engaging interim [managers] at a senior level beyond six months and requiring them to be on payroll not IR35.”
IR35 is the tax regulation covering contractors who are paid via an intermediary company instead of being directly employed on payroll.
Computer Weekly also contacted McMullan, who previously was CTO at Jaguar Land Rover. He said that Lundie-Sadd’s comments echoed his own position.
Land Registry announced the digital transformation project LR Connect earlier this month. LR Connect will cover every aspect of its business, including offering new digital services, changing internal culture and becoming more efficient. The organisation plans to develop new digital services and tools which will be developed with help from the Government Digital Service (GDS), and through working with customers, other suppliers and stakeholders.
“Our aim is to become a leader in digital land registration, data and other land and property services,” said Caroline Kyriazis, senior digital marketing manager at the Land Registry, in a blog post about LR Connect.
The non-ministerial department registers the ownership of land and property in England and Wales. It also maintains the Land Register, where more than 23 million piece of evidence proving ownership are documented.
To become a digital organisation, the Land Registry needs to use technology to make it easier for customers to interact, said Kyriazis. “Throughout our transformation, we’ll continue to safeguard the integrity of the register,” she wrote in the blog.