FFHS-NEWS Correspondence with the General Register Office (GRO)
News from the Federation of Family History Societies
ffhs-news at ffhs-lists.org.uk
Wed Apr 7 17:54:38 CEST 2010
Correspondence with the General Register Office (GRO)
Following the announcement of increased charges for birth, marriage and
death certificates with effect from 6 April 2010 I have sought to obtain
some clarification from the GRO.
First of all I wrote on 3 March and said that I had been receiving emails
suggesting that the increase is way above inflation even after taking
account of the fact that it is the first increase since 2003. In fact it
appeared to me to represent an increase of about twice the rate of inflation
over that period. This seemed to be particularly harsh during a period of
recession. I asked if they could let me know the rationale behind the
increase. On 9 March I received the following reply:
We have sought in earlier years to absorb additional costs rather than pass
these on to the customer. This has been achieved through efficiency savings
to help absorb costs. GRO continues to review opportunities to introduce
efficiency savings, however, it has become clear that we can no longer
maintain our current service within existing revenue and have therefore
increased our fees to a level which will fully recover the costs of
providing the service. We have taken the opportunity at the same time to
streamline our fee structure, and set a standard fee, the result is that
some of our current fees will rise whilst others will fall.
I immediately asked for more information about the additional costs referred
to and said that it had been suggested to me that GRO was having to recoup
some of the costs of the aborted MAGPIE project. It was difficult to accept
that the increase was merely down to the cost of producing the actual
certificates. This is the clarification sent on 26 March:
I'm happy to provide some further clarification to my email of 9 March. When
I referred to absorbing additional costs in my previous email I was
referring to the absorption of additional costs in providing certificate
services since 2003. This includes those services which are directly
associated to supporting the production of certificates such as our Contact
Centre and the team involved in receiving and arranging the quarterly copies
of birth, marriage, death etc. The additional costs (since 2003) include
increases to all elements of providing these services such as staffing,
heating, lighting, insurance, depreciation of assets, bank charges,
printing, postage etc. Clearly these costs have increased since 2003 but
our fees have not and although we have made efficiency savings within this
period and recognise that the increased volume of orders has been one the
contributing factors to maintaining a static fee, the review concluded that
the current cost model can not be sustained.
I can confirm that the costs of the previous digitisation project (DoVE and
MAGPIE) were not included in the review. The review in 2009 looked at
recovering the estimated costs of providing the service for the financial
year 2010/2011 for both the General Register Office and the Local
Registration Service. For GRO the cost of providing certificate services
includes activities to continuously improve services and supporting systems.
An element of staffing and other set up costs related to the 2010/11 budget
for the new digitisation and indexing project (D &I) has been factored into
the cost of providing GRO Certificate Services.
In my initial enquiry I also said I recognised that in some instances the
fees have gone down. This has also been a cause of concern in that it is
claimed that those who provide the full reference are subsidising those who
do not! Are you able to let me know what percentage of requests fell into
each of the old categories, i.e. online with and without a reference, etc?
This would allow me to judge to what extent the claim of subsidising is
justified. The answer to this was:
Approximately 90 % of our orders are placed online of which 95 % are
supplied with a GRO reference number.
The third strand to my initial query was related to the charges made by
local record offices. I said that it seems strange that local offices have
a lower fee than the GRO but their search systems seem to be far less
efficient than those at Southport. I asked if GRO could shed any light on
why LROs can charge only £9.00 compared with £9.25 at the GRO. Are any steps
to be taken to prevent them imposing additional administration fees where no
additional service is being provided? If it is the "official" view that such
additional fees are illegal, surely the GRO should be taking action to
prevent this practice. The reply on 9 March included the following:
As well as a review of the costs associated with providing GRO services, a
fundamental review of the cost basis for local authorities was carried out
during 2009. This review concluded that the costs of providing certificates
from the Local Registration Service should be recovered at a fee of £9.00.
Although local search systems may appear to be less efficient than GRO it
should be noted that a local register office maintains a much smaller
repository than the General Register Office for England and Wales and that
the issue of certificates (in the custody of the Superintendent Registrar)
for some districts is a very small area of business and therefore incurs
fewer associated costs. In terms of additional administration fees charged
by the local registration service, our view remains as previously stated -
that the fees for certificates issued by superintendent registrars are set
by statute and a superintendent registrar has no power to charge an
additional fee, such as an administrative charge. Only where the local
authority provides an additional, discretionary service , such as a fast
track facility, is it able to charge a supplementary fee ( to re-cover the
cost ) under the powers available to it under the Local Government Act 2003.
GRO takes every opportunity to reinforce this message to local authorities
when the practice is brought to our attention.
I would like to thank Melanie Lee, Communications Manager at GRO for
providing this information and for permission to publicise this.
FFHS Archives Liaison
archives.liaison at ffhs.org.uk
The Federation of Family History Societies is a Company Limited by Guarantee
Company Number 2930189 (England & Wales) - Registered Charity Number 1038721
Registered Office: Artillery House, 15 Byrom Street, Manchester, England M3
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