Cynical timing for Land Registry sell-off plan

24 March 2016

We will be launching a major campaign against the government's new plans to privatise the Land Registry, published late in the day before MPs break for Easter.

Two years ago when the coalition government tried to hive off the well respected 150-year-old agency the union worked with politicians, and housing industry and legal professionals to successfully make the case for continued public ownership.

This latest plan – published cynically at 5pm on the last day before the parliamentaty recess – is being driven by the Treasury's demand for cuts and short-term returns with, we believe, little enthusiasm from the business minister responsible.

Shelving its proposal in July 2014, the government revealed only 5% of respondents to its consultation agreed it would make the Land Registry more efficient and effective, and admitted: "Overall, across virtually all respondents, it was suggested that a case for change had not been made."

The major concerns expressed then, still remain: that the Land Registry is successful, popular and trusted; it is self-financing and crucial to the property market; and no case can be made for putting this at risk by introducing the profit motive into the sensitive area of state registration of land.

Former chief land registrar John Manthorpe has written to business minister Anna Soubry and other MPs to point out the Land Registry operates at "no cost to the public purse" and that it is "highly regarded by those who depend on it as a provider of trusted, prompt services".

"Land registration is not an activity that any responsible government can transfer to the private sector," he added.

Our general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "We exposed the emptiness of the government's case last time and will do again to put a stop to this plan that is being driven by short-term political choice, not economic necessity.

"Homebuyers and owners rely on the Land Registry to provide an impartial professional service and it must remain under public control, free from any profit motive and conflict of interest.

"It is utterly disgraceful that the government waited until the end of the day before MPs break for Easter to publish its consultation, but is a sure sign ministers know the strength and breadth of opposition they will face."


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