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Cost of SRA overhaul to hit £18m

24 October 2011

The cost of the SRA’s ‘change programme’ is expected to reach £18m by the end of this year, the regulator has said.

The programme is being handled by Tata Consultancy Services, a division of the India-based Tata Group.

The programme includes the move to online PC and other renewals through mySRA. The SRA announced last week that it had extended the PC renewal deadline by two months, due to continuing problems with mySRA.

Earlier this autumn, the regulator apologised for problems solicitors were experiencing logging onto mySRA, which chief executive Antony Townsend blamed on “teething problems” (see, 29 September 2011).

In its latest statement on the renewal process, the SRA said solicitors would be able to renew their PCs from 21 November 2011, before the extended deadline of 23 December 2011.

However, the regulator also told solicitors to visit mySRA on 18 November “when we will confirm whether this will be online or whether we have to revert to paper-based solutions.

“We are working hard to introduce the new online renewals process, but we will not do until we are confident that it is reliable.”

The SRA added that the deadline for activating mySRA accounts had been extended to 30 November 2011.

A spokesman for the SRA told Solicitors Journal that Tata was “customising standard technology” to deliver mySRA, which, on implementation, would be “supported by an outsourced IT services provider, Logica”.

He went on: “mySRA is the online element of a wide-ranging change programme to bring efficiencies to the SRA and improved service to solicitors. By the end of 2011, that programme will have cost circa £18m plus VAT to develop and implement.”

The spokesman said the Law Society’s decision to appoint Tata to work for it and for the SRA “was the result of an in-depth and externally audited process which involved extensive external benchmarking”.

He added: “We remain optimistic that we will be launching PC renewals online on 21 November. Other online services will be phased in over the coming months.”

Stuart Bushell, legal affairs director of SIFA, suggested that the pressure on the regulator to go ahead with mySRA, given the introduction of outcomes-focused regulation and the delayed start to its licensing of ABS firms, could have led to a decision which was “perhaps unwise”.

He went on: “Everyone would acknowledge that there is weakness in the registration of ABS that it takes place at a given point in the in the year rather than a rolling process.

“It makes for a stop/go decision, rather than one which could be put off for a few years.”

Bushell said the PC fee made a “huge percentage” of the SRA and the Law Society’s budget, and any delay beyond this year could cause serious problems to both organisations’ finances.

“Most of the Law Society and the SRA’s computer projects have caused major issues and they would have tried almost everything to make sure it would not happen again.”

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