Why we are saying NO to the privatisation of the Land Registry

As a law firm that does conveyancing, we really appreciate the efficiency of the Land Registry. In addition to being one of the most efficient government departments, we have always been impressed at how they have managed year on year to reduce their fees.

Land Registry stats

In their wisdom the government last year put forward two proposals that would prepare the Land Registry for sale in the future.

Due to overwhelming opposition to the plans the then Minister for Business Vince Cable scrapped the plans. While we celebrated the success of that victory, we knew it was only a temporary reprieve. We fully expected the privatisation of the Land Registry to be back on the agenda if the Conservative Party won the election.

In the meantime, however, plans were set in action to give the Land Registry wider powers enabling them to become providers of Local Authority Searches. This required a change in legislation.
If you looked really hard you would have found the request for this change in amongst the Infrastructure Bill along with Fracking that was included in last year’s’ Queens Speech!

Before the Bill was passed in March of this year, changes were already taking place within the Land Registry as if it was a fait accompli
We made comment about that at the time.
https://apbassettsolicitors.wordpress.com/…/land-registry-…/

Since then, other changes have been put in place that have actually been detrimental to the quality of service being delivered by the Land Registry. For most services it still remains pretty impressive, but for First Registrations and in particular, Transfers of Part, we are experiencing delays of up towards 6 months! Click here to see what Today’s Conveyancer wrote about it earlier this month.

Is this a taste of things to come when the Land Registry comes under new management?

We don’t want to take the risk of finding out nor do we want the information it holds about the property our clients own – their data – to ever be in the hands of a commercial entity.

That’s why we are standing with the PCS Union, the Property Search Agents, the Legal Profession and Property Owners in this campaign to STOP the privatisation of the Land Registry.

We hope you will join us. https://apbassettsolicitors.wordpress.co

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Save The Land Registry Campaign

Help us STOP the Land Registry from being Privatised!

Last year the proposed plans for the Land Registry were scrapped after a high-profile national campaign involving all the key stakeholders; the PCS union, Property Search Agents, Conveyancers, High Street law firms and Members of the Public worked collaboratively to oppose the plans.

A petition with over 100,000 signatures was delivered to the Department of BIS by Rebecca Falcone from 38 Degrees.

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We knew it would only be a matter of time….

Sure as eggs…. the government has asked investment bank Rothschild to look at the options for a £1bn plus sale and wrote in the Autumn Statement of its intention to ‘consult on options to move operations of the Land Registry to the private sector from 2017.

Why are we making such a fuss? Because the Land Registry:

  • Is responsible for ensuring that conveyances, transfers and mortgages, are properly executed and legally effective,
  • Keeps the register of the ownership of land and property in England and Wales
  • Provides owners with a land title that is underpinned by the state
  • Pays millions into the Treasury each year and costs the tax payer nothing!

Land Charge and Conveyance

An important role of the Land Registry is to underpin the ownership of the property YOU own, providing YOU with a state backed guarantee to title.

Don’t take our word for it, you can click here and the Land Registry will tell you what they do and you can decide for yourself – should they be privatised?

We think not! Nether does the former Chief Land Registrar John Manthorpe! He said last year, “The role of the Land Registry “is not an activity that any responsible Government can pass to the private sector.”

If you want to see the Land Registry kept under the control of the state and not be privatised you can:

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Land Registry Counting Chickens

The Executive Board of the Land Registry anticipate that they will be taking on the Local Land Charges Searches. They are assuming that the ‘Wider Powers’ contained within the Infrastructure Bill will pass successfully through Parliament. Don’t count your chickens too soon! The Bill faces growing opposition as more members of the public, MPs, and Peers become aware of what is at stake!

Land Registry counting chickens before they hatch

Land Registry counting chickens before they hatch.

The Conservatives are committed to their ideology of a small state and it seems to us, that they are using the Government’s digital strategy to achieve their aims. In particular Local Government departments are suffering as a result of cuts, so much so, they are struggling to function or be fit for purpose. This is now being felt by the property market as Local Land Charges are being criticised by Estate Agents for causing sales to fall through and mortgage offers are being timed out by the length of time it now takes for a Local Authority search. Property Industry Eye report in their news that searches are taking 6 – 10 weeks in some areas!

We know that centralising services by digitalisation makes a lot of sense, but at what cost? Who is keeping an eye on getting the balance right? At what stage does the digital strategy begin to work against us?

Here are the reasons we need your support to stop the bill from going through in it’s present form:

  1. A lot of specialist and experienced staff stand to lose their jobs from Local Land Charges Departments.
  2. The ‘Wider Powers’, as rightly highlighted by Christian Lister, (Chairman IPSA), in an earlier post, still need greater scrutiny as the proposals do very little to improve the data provision of a local search which is required by mortgage lenders to assess risk on a property or land.
  3. The ‘Wider Powers’ will give the Land Registry the monopoly over the provision of property related searches. If the Land Registry were to stay in the public sector, that wouldn’t be so bad because so far they have been brilliant at reducing their fees year on year. BUT DON’T COUNT ON IT! We fear the ‘Wider Powers’ will pave the way for the future privatisation of the Land Registry.

Lets keep up the pressure! A really great way of doing that is to sign & share the 38 Degrees petition.

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Should the Land Registry be Privatised?

NO say all of us! The 38 Degrees #savelandreg petition with over 104,000 signatures was handed into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on Wednesday 2nd July.

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The petition was handed in by the lovely Rebecca Falcon of 38 Degrees and received by Shadow Minister Toby Perkins.

 

 

Unfortunately neither Vince Cable nor Michael Fallon were available to receive the petition addressed to their departments but we had great support from John McDonnell MP, Toby Perkins MP and Roberta Blackman-Woods MP.

Members of the public, property search agents, solicitors, union members and 38 degrees were all in attendance.

James Ferguson who started the 38 degrees petition says,

 “We will be issuing information on how to write to your MP and Ministers to demand they scrap both these proposals.”

All of us involved in the campaign are so thankful to everyone who signed the petition, wrote letters, sent postcards etc. Thank you all for your support! It’s amazing what can happen when people work together! #peoplepower

But it is not over yet!                                                                                                                                     The #savelandreg Campaign now enters Phase 2

The people have spoken! We now hope the government will take heed of the publics opposition to the proposed plans and that this is reflected in the Government’s response to the consultation and they will commit to keeping the Land Registry public.

In the meantime, we need to our turn attention to the Wider Powers contained within the Infrastructure Bill, which if they pass successfully through the House of Lords, will pave the way to privatisation next time the opportunity arises.

Michael Kavanagh writes,

“PCS welcomes the news that privatisation plans have been scrapped, for now, and we are delighted and extremely grateful to the support 38 Degrees members have given to our campaign.

We are, however, concerned that Government are pressing ahead with changes to LR, including taking over processing local land charges searches, which are widely seen as paving the way for a future attempt to privatise. The campaign will be stepped up accordingly.”

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The land registration system underpins the property market in England and Wales and guarantees title to billions of pounds worth of property!

Christian Lister, Chairman of the Independent Property Search Agents (IPSA) tells of his concerns,

“The HMLR Wider Powers contained within the draft Infrastructure Bill (currently being debated in the House of Lords) still need greater scrutiny as the proposals do very little to improve the data provision of a local search; which is required by mortgage lenders to asses risk on a property or land.

The personal search industry has over the past 14 years brought significant consumer benefits and streamlined housing transactions from months to weeks.

As an industry we are constantly developing new products, constantly improving the consumer process and the competitive nature of the industry is a true consumer price benefit.

IPSA believe greater consultation is required before these Wider Powers become law and create a very uncompetitive Government monopoly.  The Rt Hon Eric Pickles has already warned of this monopoly in his correspondence with other officials.

It’s time all MPs and Ministers took heed of his wording and pause for thought and greater interaction with IPSA.”

Please sign and share the petition. Follow the campaign on Facebook.              #peoplepower is working. Lets keep it up!

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Vince Cable scraps £1.2 billion Land Registry sell-off!

Hip Hip Hooray! Such good news!!

But wait… the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) have not yet confirmed the news that Vince Cable has shelved the plans to privatise the Land Registry. They are not saying anything until the official report on the New Service Delivery Company consultation is published.

We emailed BIS asking for confirmation and this was their reply:

“As you are aware, we have carried out a public consultation on the introduction of a Land Registry service delivery company, which looked at a range of options – including the status quo. We will publish the Government response shortly.

 

The usual stock answer – lacking in imagination! But there won’t be smoke without fire. Vince Cable may well be wanting to scrap the plans, but if the ‘Wider Powers’ gets passed through Parliament, the threat of privatisation will always be there. If everything goes according to Government plans, the Bill will be passed and the Land Registry will become the sole provider of Local Land Charges searches and official search results.

These are the building blocks that will pave the way to privatisation at a later date. In anticipation of the Bill being successful the Government can afford, at this stage, to say they are scrapping the idea.

So whilst we can celebrate the effect that #peoplepower is having on the plans, we know that the campaign is not over yet!

#peoplepower

#peoplepower

Please sign and share the Petition and help keep the Land Registry public!

Follow the latest news on Facebook

 

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Land Registry Wider Powers and Local Land Charges Consultation Response

We were concerned that the Government’s consultations to the Land Registry would turn up in the Queens Speech. It seemed to us that the very short consultation period was deliberately timed to coincide with the Queens Speech.

No surprises then when it did! Not easy to find contained within the Infrastructure Bill!

The Bill would transfer statutory responsibility for the Local Land Charges register and delivery of Local Land Charges searches to the Land Registry supporting the delivery of digital services and extend Land Registry’s powers to enable it to provide information and register services relating to land and other property.

"This proposal does not demonstrate an improvement or enhancement to the service"

Local Land Charges

The Local Land Charges in their response to the consultation, state their concern, which is shared by many, that Land Registry has failed to demonstrate its understanding of the service provided and the vital part this plays in the housing market and wider economy.

 

 

 

The Governance guidance on consultations state that a response is to be published 12 weeks after the date of closure.  The response to the consultation was finally published on the 16th June. Only 15  days late! I wonder what took them so long?

The campaign goes on!

 

 

 

 

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Save The Land Registry Campaign

Save the Land Registry! Not because it is failing – it has 95% customer satisfaction, paid £98m to treasury last year and reduced fees to customers. We can’t talk highly enough of their services. So why does it need saving? It needs saving from being sold!

Postcards for Public_ front page

Front of Postcard to Vince Cable

At the beginning of the year, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) were asking for views on granting the Land Registry ‘Wider Powers’. This would enable the Land Registry to provide the Local Land Charges searches as other property related searches instead of the Local Authorities and compete with the Independent search companies.

The consultation was in two parts:
the first part related to its proposal to extend Land Registry‘s powers to enable it to provide services relating not only to land registration but also to land and other property.

The second part related to Land Registry‘s proposals to amend the Local Land Charges Act 1975 to enable Land Registry to provide a more consistent, standardised Local Land Charges searches system.

The purpose of this consultation was to give all persons with an interest in the property sector the opportunity to consider and comment on the proposals.

The consultation ran for just short of eight weeks from 16 January 2014  – 9 March 2014

A week later the Land Registry asked for stakeholder’s views on proposals to create a new service delivery company to take over responsibility for processing land and property registration from HM Land Registry.  The proposal is to retain a separate Office of the Chief Land Registrar within government, which will mainly perform regulatory and fee-setting functions, to make sure customers’ interests continue to be protected.

The eight week consultation ran from 23rd January 2014 – 20th March 2014.

The Land Registry’s Chief Registrar Ed Lester, and Executive Board and BIS asked for the views of stakeholders promising that no decisions would be made on either consultation until all the responses to the consultation were published.

The Stakeholders are:

  1. The Local Land Charges and the Independent Search Agencies (IPSA & CoPSA) because they provide the searches required when purchasing a new property or taking out a mortage.
  2. The Land Registry Staff  (PCS Union)
  3. Conveyancers
  4. Land/Property owners
  5. Lenders

In our opinion, a Key Stakeholder is the property owner because they pay monies to the conveyancers to pay for the searches and the Land Registry fees (called ‘disbursements’)

But don’t be surprised if you knew nothing about it! Hardly any of the stakeholders knew about it. The consultations were not well publicised at all and it was confusing to understand what the ramifications of the proposed changes would be.

We think it is outrageous that the public have not been properly consulted on such a major issue because the changes, if they are successful, will lead to the Land Registry being privatised. As John Manthorpe, the former Chief Registrar says:

“the Land Registry must remain as a commercially neutral department of government – as it has been for over 150 years.”

We have prepared some postcards for members of the public to sign and send to Vince Cable. Please contact us allsorts@apbassett.co.uk if you would like us to send you some.

What happens nest means a lot...BackWe arranged for some of the stakeholders to come together to explain the situation and to share their concerns.

Each stakeholder has a different reason for opposing the plans, but the one thing we all agree on is that the Land Registry must remain in the public sector. That is why we are campaigning.

Many other High Street law firms up and down the country feel the same and are also standing up and campaigning on behalf of their clients.

If you feel the same way, pleased join us in telling the Government NO to the privatisation of the Land Registry by signing the 38 Degrees Petition.

All the latest updates are on the Facebook Page.

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