Sunday, 21 March 2010

Now English/Welsh GRO is to discontinue index checks

The latest Lost Cousins newsletter from Peter Calver has more information on the forthcoming developments at the English and Welsh General Register Office at Southport. As well as the already well reported price rise in certificates to £9.25 from April 6th (see GRO England and Wales - certificates price increase), the centre will now also be discontinuing its reference checking service, because

"We have been advised that there is no clear remit in statute for charging for a service to check additional index references, or to retain partial fees. In order to ensure full legal compliance, and in view of the fact that we cannot afford to offer this service free of charge, we are regretfully withdrawing our reference checking service from 6 April. This will include the withdrawal of the "checking points".

Until April 6th, staff will check that you have picked the right index entry for the record you are interested in prior to despatching an order. From April 6th, you're on your own - if you haven't done so, you will get the wrong certificate, at a waste of £9.25. So do double check your reference numbers prior to making an order.

We are now in the midst of the biggest financial crisis that this country has ever faced, and it should probably be no surprise that the Government is going to start saving pennies and cutting services where it can and to start taxing us to the hilt where it thinks it can get away with it. It's obvious that the goings on at the GRO are just a tiny example of much more serious things to come over the next few years, but I suspect the GRO, like anywhere else in the civil service, can only respond to the circumstances it now finds itself in due to the ineptitude of the current Labour Government which thoughtfully decided to bring the UK close to bankruptcy. Mind you, there's also the whole DOVE and EAGLE fiasco to consider...!

I seriously doubt that England and Wales are a special and unique case, so it may well be that Scotland and Northern Ireland follow suit in the months to come (just a guess, I haven't heard anything as yet!). At least here there are options, as unlike our southern neighbours there are alternatives to access the information beyond the ordering of certificates. The ScotlandsPeople Centre gives unlimited access to all family history records up to the present day for a tenner. It is not quite so rosey in Belfast - a statutory cert costs £12 from the GRONI, the highest in the UK, and that's prior to any potential price rise, but again it has a research room where for £2.50 per entry you can gain the relevant information (albeit the last time I was there I had to have it read out to me like I was some sort of imbecile!!!).

It is right to complain about the rises and the withdrawal of services, and I'm sure there is plenty more to come. But I'm guessing the decisions of the GRO in Southport are undoubtedly a reaction to another much bigger problem - and I have no doubt that many of us will take seriously our responsibilities at the next election...

(With thanks to Peter Calver)

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Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

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