Should the Land Registry be Privatised? 

NO say all of us!!

That is the message being delivered to Business Secretary Sajid Javid on Thursday 26th May, that all 280,000 signatories are against the government’s plans to privatise the Land Registry.

For a second time in two years campaigners are handing in a 38 Degrees Petition to the Business Secretary in opposition to the government’s plans to privatise the Land Registry. The Hand-In is taking place on Thursday 26th May at 2.30 pm outside the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills.

Contrary to the government’s view as stated in the consultation document, that there is no compelling case for keeping the Land Registry in public ownership, at the last consultation only 5% of the responses agreed, while 95% disagreed with the plans. The opinion today amongst the stakeholders remains the same. No No No!

They each give their reasons why the Land Registry shouldn’t be privatised:

The PCS Union: Michael Kavanagh, the President of the Land Registry branch of the PCS Union says,

“Land registration must remain an impartial and trusted role of the state, free from commercial exploitation and conflict of interest. Privatisation would inevitably lead to increased fees for the public if the motive shifted from the public services to profit.

Our dedicated members spend a large amount of time rectifying historical errors, investigating disputes and preventing property fraud. This work would undoubtedly suffer if privatisation were to occur.”

Local Authorities: The proposals for the Land Registry to take over parts of a Local Authority search are causing concern for Local Land Charges Officers and the private search agents. The takeover of the Local Land Charges function by Land Registry would lead to a more fragmented, more costly and less reliable service than that which already exists and would result in a poorer service for the property-buying public and the businesses that assist them.

The Search Agents: IPSA, the trade body for Independent Search Agents are also concerned that by the Land Registry providing the searches, there will be no competition and the cost of searches to the home buyer will rise.

The Lawyers: Many conveyancing solicitors have raised concerns about the proposals on behalf of their clients. President of the Law Society Jonathan Smithers said,

“Privatisation of the Land Registry would mark a significant change to a vital piece of our nation’s infrastructure. The ability of any owner or company to have certainty about the ownership and status of land is central to the way our economy functions”.

Homeowners: Denise Watts from Lostwithiel in Cornwall says,

“It’s not theirs to sell! It’s all about security and protection of our data. Selling the Land Registry is like selling off another piece of family silver, except the information the Land Registry hold about us, our title deeds, our mortgage deeds, makes it a piece of silver with our names engraved on it!”

Former Chief Land Registrar John Manthorpe says:

“The Land Registry is self-funding, operating at no cost to the public purse. It has an excellent record of holding and reducing its costs and its fees to customers. It pays an annual dividend to the Exchequer. It is highly regarded by those who depend on it as a provider of trusted, prompt services.

It is difficult to see how security of tenure and a functioning property and mortgage market in this country could be sustained without Her Majesty’s Land Registry, as a public department of government, continuing to provide the impartial and quasi-judicial title guarantees on which the workings of the economy rely.”

The Land Registry is responsible for ensuring that conveyances, transfers, mortgages etc, are properly executed and legally effective. John Manthorpe has repeatedly warned this is not an activity that any responsible Government can pass to the private sector.

He goes on to say, “The Land Registry is not merely a passive recording authority. Nor is it merely a data provider.  It does seem that the authors of the consultation document have not understood the adjudicatory nature of the Registry’s work on registering title, guaranteeing land rights and guaranteeing too pre-contract and pre-completion search results. Such results, which are backed by indemnity, make possible the millions of transactions in land rights on which the property market depends”.

At the end of the day it comes down to the money. With so many valid reasons as to why the Land Registry should not be privatised, the one reason why the Chancellor is so intent on the sale is because he so desperately needs the money to reduce the deficit. PCS General Secretary, Mark Serwotka, describes the sell off as being “deeply dangerous” and says that the proposal is based on a political choice, not economic necessity. It is being driven by the Treasury’s demand for cuts and short-term returns and is neither required nor being requested by anyone who works in the industry.

‘We Own It’, a campaign group for keeping public services public, run for people not profit, have published a report this week which refers to the sale of the Land Registry. It states,

“Selling off the UK public assets such as the Land Registry will leave the government’s finances worse off in the long-term as cash from the sale is outstripped by future profits”.

In addition to the sell-off of the Land Registry, the government is intending another £5billion of public assets to be sold before 2020.

During the 80s, under Chancellors Geffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson they sold off around £56billion of public assets. The current Chancellor George Osborne in 6 years, will have sold off £58billion.

Once an asset is sold, the Treasury loses the revenue it once made from it. In the Land Registry’s case, that would be a loss of £100million a year. Can we really afford to sell it?! 280,000 of us think not!

The First Time: Representatives of the stakeholder groups handed in to the then Business Secretary Vince Cable a 38 Degrees petition with104,888 signatures outside the offices of Business Innovation & Skills 2014.The proposed plans were later scrapped.

The First Time: Representatives of the stakeholder groups handed in to the then Business Secretary Vince Cable a 38 Degrees petition with104,888 signatures outside the offices of Business Innovation & Skills 2014.The proposed plans were later scrapped.

For the second time: Representatives of the stakeholders group will be handing in another 38 Degrees Petition, this year with more than 225,000 signatures, to Business Secretary The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP on Thursday 26th May at 2.30pm at the offices of Business, Innovation and Skill, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0E.

For the second time: Representatives of the stakeholders group will be handing in another 38 Degrees Petition, this year with more than 225,000 signatures, to Business Secretary The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP on Thursday 26th May at 2.30pm at the offices of Business, Innovation and Skill, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0E.

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About Allsorts at A P Bassetts Solicitors

Practice Manager for A P Bassett Solicitors
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