The system of registering births, deaths and marriages in England and Wales is about to undergo the most radical change since its introduction in 1837 and Proper Officers need to be aware that there are significant implications for local authorities.
The Government released a White Paper – Civil Registration: Vital Change – in January 2002 setting out its vision for the future delivery of a modern registration service. This vision was in accord with the Government’s overall strategy that public services should be more accessible, particularly through electronic means, and capable of being joined up so that information can be shared between government bodies with more focus on the user requirements of the service.
One of the recommendations in the White Paper was that local authorities will assume responsibility for delivery of the face-to-face aspects of the registration service. Registration officers will cease to be statutory officers with individual responsibilities answerable to the Registrar General and become local authority employees. This will change significantly the tri-partite relationship between the General Register Office (GRO), local authorities and registration officers. The GRO will continue to be responsible for legislative and policy development, communicating any changes in legislation and policy to local authorities via GRO Circulars, or similar. However, the lead role in disseminating information on local operational implementation arrangements is likely to pass to LACoRS.
Following the publication of the White Paper the Government issued a consultation document – Delivering Vital Change – in July 2003. This was extremely well received attracting almost 4000 responses from a wide range of practitioners, local authority personnel and the genealogical fraternity.
The proposed changes will be implemented via two separate Regulatory Reform Orders under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001. The first of these will introduce changes to the system of registering births and deaths and was presented to parliament on 22nd July. It is now hoped to present the second – which will deal with marriages – in 2005, following a further period of consultation on non civil non religious ceremonies as recently announced by the Government.
The Registration Inspectorate is currently assessing local authority preparedness to deal with these changes via a programme of inspections throughout the Country. The first reports of these inspections indicate that those authorities that have identified a ‘CRR champion’ at a senior level within the organisation are well on track, whereas those that have not are significantly less well prepared. Members of BALGPS who are chief executives and/or proper officers for registration purposes will want personally to ensure that their authorities are in a position to implement the proposed changes as efficiently and effectively as possible.
More information can be found on the GRO website www.gro.gov.uk or by contacting:
Head of Local Government Implementation
Civil Registration Review
General Register Office
Tel. 0151-471-4568 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org