The Conservative Government tried to sneak a quiet privatisation of the Land Registry past us all once before.
It was back in the summer of 2014 and the secret plan sparked a two-day strike by members of the PCS Union. The union has already vowed to fight again.
There had been a public consultation – but it received hardly any publicity at all and was closed before most people knew it had happened.
Among the Land Registry’s many functions are quasi-judicial decisions on ownership and transfers, granting title and, crucially, guaranteeing legal rights on behalf of the state. This is not just of fundamental importance to homeowners, but an essential feature of our economy. The backbone of the system is its freedom from outside influence and commercial interest.
Clearly, privatisation would put the Land Registry entirely under threat of outside influence and dominated by commercial interest.
The agency is also currently bound by government policy on procurement, designed to assist small and medium-sized businesses to compete against the oligopoly of large suppliers.
But in 2014, The Guardian told us: “BIS [The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills] has identified this as a problem, claiming greater flexibility in the private sector to buy goods and services. In a truly astonishing move, a government agency faces being changed into a commercial company so it can avoid the very controls the government brought in to protect small businesses.”
The article also warned of “massive job losses and office closures” and said the government had “flatly refused” to publish and fully consult on these plans.
The Tories would have put private equity firms and outsourcing companies in control of a system that had been freed of any obligation towards small and medium-sized businesses, and whose work would be done by local authorities – at a cost to the council, not the Land Registry.
For any shareholder, it would have been a licence to print money.
That’s why the Tories are trying again.
Former chief land registrar John Manthorpe has written to business minister Anna Soubry and other MPs, pointing out that land registry is not an activity that can be transferred to the private sector by a responsible government.
But we have seen in the recent Budget debacle that the UK does not have a responsible government.
It’s take out the trash day! And the bad news the Tories want to bury is the controversial sell-off of the Land Registry
The Tories … quietly announced plans to privatise the Land Registry at 5pm the night before the Easter Holidays.
George Osborne has being trying to sell off the agency, which controls all property transactions in England and Wales, for several years.
A plan to unload it was blocked by the Liberal Democrats during the coalition years, but Osborne revived the idea last year.
He reportedly called in investment bank Rothschild to examine options for its sale in November.
The agency has previously been valued at around £1.2bn. Last year it made a surplus of £36.6 and paid the Government more than £100m in dividends.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills have issued a consultation document, with an aim to sell it off by 2017.
Join the Vox Political Facebook page.
If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!
Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:
Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.
Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:
The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here: