Tag Archives: land registry

Never mind the corruption fears – the Land Registry is up for privatisation again

150115OsborneVeryEvil
The Tories tried to privatise the Land Registry last year, amid fears that this would create huge opportunities for corruption. When they backed down, they said it was “too complicated” and would have needed “new legislation”.

Apparently those concerns are behind them now. Shame the corruption isn’t.

Apart from that, this report shows a poll for an organisation that is against privatisation has produced results showing people are against privatisation, which tends to support This Blog’s contention that polls tend to reflect the views of the people who fund them.

George Osborne’s plans to sell off more of the country’s assets are overwhelmingly opposed by voters, a poll reveals.

The Chancellor announced in last month’s Autumn Statement the biggest wave of privatisation since Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s.

A stake in the Green Investment Bank, the student loan book and the Land Registry have all been earmarked as money raisers for the Treasury.

But a poll by Survation for the campaign group We Own It found a clear majority opposed the lightning sales.

According to the survey, 70% want the Land Registry to stay public while 60% believe the government should keep its 49% stake in National Air Traffic Services with just 15% in favour of the sell off.

Source: Polls shows massive opposition to George Osborne’s privatisation plan – and even Tory voters are against it

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:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

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:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Latest privatisation/corruption plan is halted as government reluctantly scraps Land Registry sale

Still in public ownership: According to reports, the sale of the Land Registry has been cancelled.

Still in public ownership: According to reports, the sale of the Land Registry has been cancelled.

A little-known plan to sell off one of the government’s best-performing and self-financing organisations has been scrapped – not because of fears that a new system would be prone to corruption but apparently because it was “too complicated” and would have necessitated “new legislation”.

The change of heart – for whatever reason – has been taken by the PCS Union as a victory for its campaign against the sell-off, which included a two-day strike against the privatisation proposal, which members described as “secret”.

Commentators including Vox Political pointed out that the public consultation process received hardly any publicity at all and was closed before most of us even knew it had taken place.

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,” the article stated.

In its article on the subject earlier this month, Vox Political warned that, clearly, privatisation would put the Land Registry entirely under threat of outside influence and dominated by commercial interest.

It quoted a report in The Guardian stating: “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 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.

And the plot thickened considerably when it was revealed that the Infrastructure Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech would transfer responsibility for the local land charges register to the national Land Registry – away from local councils. This means it would profit from the sale of the information – while councils fear they would still have to employ staff to do the work.

All in all, the sale was shaping up into a plan to put big business – the ‘This is Money’ article suggested 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 new shareholder, it would have been a licence to print money.

The PCS has already declared its delight that the sell-off has been called off. A statement released yesterday (June 29) reads: “This would be a victory for the thousands of Land Registry staff who campaigned with industry professionals against the plans, and very welcome news for millions of people who rely on it to provide a reliable, impartial and hugely important public service.

“We want the Land Registry to work with us on our proposals to strengthen the agency in future, but serious questions must be asked of senior officials and ministers who tried to push through what would have been a very damaging and totally unnecessary sell-off.”

Indeed. First among these would be: Who paid them to do it?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy Vox Political books!
The second – Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook
The first, Strong Words and Hard Times
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Did the Tories tell anyone at all they were privatising the Land Registry?

140610LandRegistry

Did you know about this?

According to a petition on the 38 Degrees website, the government closed – closed – a public consultation on proposals to privatise the 152-year-old Land Registry on March 20 this year.

“There has been no publicity or attempt to inform the public of this radical change to an organisation that is vital to the UK property market,” the text of the petition states.

While this is not strictly true, it would be accurate to say that the plan has not been well-publicised. Not at all.

The government put out a press release on January 23, saying a consultation was taking place on plans “to help Land Registry deliver more efficient and modern services”. That’s no way to announce a privatisation – and the plan to create a private company was only revealed several paragraphs into the text.

Why is this important?

Well, the Land Registry is one of the largest property databases in Europe, guaranteeing title to registered estates and interests in land, recording the ownership rights of freehold properties and leasehold properties where the lease has been granted for longer than seven years.

It is self-financing; its income generated by registration and search fees. You pay to access certain information.

Last month, 3,000 PCS Union members went on a two-day strike over the “secret” privatisation proposal. A report in The Guardian said the government had failed to explain what problem is was trying to fix, or what benefits would be gained by privatisation.

“Key among the organisation’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,” the article stated.

Clearly, privatisation would put the Land Registry entirely under threat of outside influence and dominated by commercial interest.

Also: “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 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.

Prepare for a thickening of the plot: The Infrastructure Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech last week would transfer responsibility for the local land charges register to the national Land Registry – away from local councils. This means it would profit from the sale of the information – while councils fear they would still have to employ staff to do the work.

The petition states that “another consultation on giving the Land Registry wider powers in the control of data essential to the sale and purchase of property closed earlier with the majority of the public not being aware if it’s existence.”

It seems our attention is being directed away from another Tory-led plan to sell one of our best-performing and most efficient public services off to create more profit for private business – most notably big business, at the expense of small and medium-sized enterprises – while forcing the public sector to do all the work for nothing.

It isn’t too late to register your disgust at this proposal. Sign the petition right now.

And for goodness’ sake, tell everyone you know.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy Vox Political books!
The second – Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook
The first, Strong Words and Hard Times
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Osborne Update: Met passes the buck

The Metropolitan Police cannot investigate George Osborne over the way he misused public funds to pay mortgage interest on a paddock in Cheshire – apparently there is a separate investigation already taking place.

A representative passed this information to me by telephone earlier today. She assured me that a file had been created and sent to the appropriate place (Westminster), but said: “There are separate ongoing issues that are being investigated, so it can’t be done by us. You would have to speak to your local MP.”

When I pressed her for the reason, she said “It is not within our jurisdiction to do this. There is a separate investigation ongoing with this.”

I haven’t got the faintest idea what she meant by this. Therefore I have emailed my MP and asked him to take up the matter. There is a problem with this, in that he is a Liberal Democrat and therefore part of the Coalition, of which George Osborne is a high-ranking member.

In my email, I urged my MP to do everything within his power to ensure that a proper police investigation does indeed take place into Mr Osborne’s wrongdoing (it isn’t alleged – the facts are known and it is therefore simply a matter of ensuring that a prosecution takes place and the criminal is imprisoned. Bear in mind that, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, what he has done is a gross betrayal of public trust).

I added that he may find that other MPs have also been contacted by constituents who want to see justice served. By that, I mean anyone reading this, who has read my previous articles about this and taken action on them.

I also added that I am extremely interested to learn the nature of the “separate ongoing issues” mentioned by the officer of the Metropolitan Police, and urged him to find out what this means and let me know. And I asked, if this investigation is not within the jurisdiction of the Met, who is carrying it out?

I strongly urge you to do likewise.

Please note: I have been advised that my information is out of date as the fraud-related provisions of the Theft Act 1968 have been repealed and replaced by the Fraud Act 2006. Mr Osborne’s actions are therefore likely to be crimes under sections 2, 3, and 4 of the 2006 Act.

For those who want to contact their MP, as I have, but need to find the correct email address, here’s the appropriate web link:
http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/

Police urged to investigate fraud allegations against Osborne

… by me.

What follows is the text of my complaint to the Metropolitan Police (via their website)  about George Osborne’s paddock scam. I have received a large volume of responses to my article about this yesterday, all but one of which agreed with my belief that what he did was a criminal offence and should be investigated with a view to prosecution and imprisonment.

I would strongly urge others to contact the Met regarding this case. I’ve done it; you can do it too. The more of us stand up and demand action, the more seriously they are likely to view this matter.

Here’s what I wrote:

It has emerged that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, has been misusing taxpayers’ money for his own enrichment and for that reason I have been urged to request a criminal investigation concerning fraud. From the evidence that is publicly available, it seems clear that this is an offence according to s.16 of the Theft Act, 1968.

We know that Mr Osborne bought a farmhouse in Cheshire, along with the neighbouring land, for £455,000 in 2000, before he became an MP in 2001. Between 2003 and 2009, he claimed up to £100,000 in expenses to cover mortgage interest payments on both the land and the building. The mortgage was interest-only. After 2003, he never paid a penny himself.

He re-mortgaged in 2005, increasing the amount to £480,000 – again on an interest-only basis – to cover the initial purchase costs and £10,000 for repairs. He was using public money to claw back his outlay on the property so, from then on, we can say that none of the money paid on that building or land was ever paid by Mr Osborne. It all came from the taxpayer.

During the MPs’ expenses scandal of 2009 we learned that he had “flipped” his second home allowance onto the farmhouse building and increased the mortgage. What we didn’t know was that the expenses payments were not just for the house, but for the paddock as well; it is registered separately with the Land Registry.

Mr Osborne sold the house and the land – both of which are now firmly established as having been funded with taxpayers’ money, not his own – last year, for £1 million. That’s more than double the original price. He has pocketed that money; the taxpayer won’t get any of it back.

So he has exploited taxpayers like you and me to make £1 million for himself. This was not a necessary expense to help him discharge his Parliamentary duties; it seems clear that it was a property scam.

I wish also to invite you to take action against this person for any other offences which may apply, such as false accounting (s.17, Theft Act 1968).

Obviously, since the crime relates to expenses claims, the location is wherever MPs’ expenses claims are considered. I would suggest this is the Palace of Westminster (the Houses of Parliament) but I am prepared to be corrected on this.

The victims of this crime are the taxpayers of the UK. Mr Osborne took money that was available to Parliament through taxation, therefore no single person can claim they are the victim but all taxpayers have been affected. Please be reminded that we are discussing a considerable sum of money – up to £100,000.

I refer you to the following press reports of the issue, in which it is made clear that Mr Osborne did not need this building or the adjoining land to discharge his Parliamentary duties, nor did he pay back anything like the amount he claimed, when he was found to have overclaimed for mortgage interest on the farmhouse (and only the farmhouse):

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/dec/07/taxpayers-paid-george-osborne-paddock-mortgage

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/george-osborne-included-a-horses-paddock-1477294

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/george-osborne-included-a-horses-paddock-1477294

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/georgeosborne/9729139/George-Osborne-bought-paddock-with-taxpayers-money.html

I realise this is an unusual complaint but the situation is the subject of considerable public unrest and I believe it is right to bring it to the attention of the police. There is a widespread feeling that Mr Osborne has committed a crime, that this should be investigated to the fullest extent, and that a criminal action should be brought against him. It is understood that this person holds one of the highest offices in the land but this should not place him above the criminal law.

Storm in a scrapyard over Hughes – while Osborne should be arrested

I can’t see any reason to make a fuss over Simon Hughes.

The Liberal Democrat deputy may have failed to declare – fully – a £10,000 donation from a scrap metal firm. Big deal. He did not see any of the money himself. Apparently there’s another donation of £15,000 from a cruise company. Hughes was the speaker at a Christmas cruise on the Thames, operated by this company, and has spoken about both firms in Parliament. It looks like straightforward ‘cash-for-questions’, if there’s truth to it.

Isn’t it more interesting that this should come to light on the same day that I read about George Osborne and his paddock?

This is not an allegation but fact: Osborne – who is, let’s remember, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and therefore should know the rules extremely well – included the mortgage for a paddock in his taxpayer-funded expenses.

He bought a farmhouse in Cheshire, along with the neighbouring land, for £455,000 in 2000, before he became an MP – but then, between 2003 and 2009, he claimed up to £100,000 in expenses to cover mortgage interest payments on both the land and the building. The mortgages were interest-only. After 2003, he never paid a penny himself.

When he re-mortgaged in 2005, he increased the amount to £480,000 – again on an interest-only basis – to cover the intial purchase costs and £10,000 for repairs. He was using public money to claw back his outlay on the property, so from then on, none of the money paid on that building or land was paid by Mr Osborne. It all came from the taxpayer.

During the MPs’ expenses scandal of 2009 we learned that he had “flipped” his second home allowance onto the property and increased the mortgage. What we didn’t know was that the expenses payments were not just for the house, but for the paddock as well; it is registered separately with the Land Registry.

Osborne sold the house and the land – both of which are now firmly established as having been funded with your money, not his – last year, for £1 million. That’s more than double the original price. He has pocketed that money; the taxpayer won’t get any of it back.

So he has exploited us to make £1 million for himself.

Make no mistake – this was not a necessary expense to help him discharge his Parliamentary duties; it was a property scam.

Because the money was claimed as a Parliamentary expense, I think there are grounds for a fraud inquiry. It seems like an open-and-shut case of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception (Theft Act 1968, section 16).

Let’s also remember that this is a man with what I believe is known as “form”. Earlier this year he was caught in the First Class compartment of a train, having paid only a Standard Class fare. Again, he had obtained an advantage via deception.

Did he pay any penalty for the railway incident? I’ve heard nothing. Will he pay a penalty for this £1 million wheeze? I doubt it.

But you should remember it, next time you see him telling you that his latest plan to squeeze the last vital pennies from your bank accounts are “fair”.

And you should pay particular attention to this comment from him, made when he became Chancellor (and therefore while he was still claiming the mortgage on expenses, before making the sale): “I took a pay cut, and froze my pay on taking this job, took a pay cut from the previous chancellor, the Labour chancellor, in order to show that politicians weren’t going to get away with it.”

He seems to think he can.

I find it extremely dubious that the allegations about Hughes should take pride of place on certain news media websites, while the facts about Osborne appear to be all but brushed under the carpet.

My opinion: Osborne should be arrested and remanded in custody (without bail – the risk that he might abscond would be too great) until a trial can take place.