New government plans to sell Land Registry are driven solely by politics and could create an out-of-control private monopoly – with risks to the integrity of the register and the wider economy.
This is the central theme of the PCS trade union’s response to privatisation proposals published for consultation just before the Easter break.
The union, which represents hundreds of Land Registry staff, has been a consistent critic of privatisation plans. It says the current proposal, to transfer the organisation to a ‘GovCo’ for sale to a private owner is 'driven by the Treasury’s demand for cuts and short-term returns’.
Pointing to the overwhelming opposition to a 2014 consultation, the union says privatisation 'is neither required nor being requested by anyone who works in the industry.’
It warns that short-term financial gain 'would be far outweighed by the long-term consequences of undermining a trusted, impartial and highly successful public service, putting at risk the stability of the housing market and the wider economy’.
Private ownership would created a conflict of interest and a lack of incentive to provide open data on land and property ownership, including efforts to tackle offshore ownership of the kind exposed in the Panama Papers, the union says.
Meanwhile, the proposed model of safeguards through a regulatory body has not worked well in other privatised industries such as energy and rail.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: 'Allowing a private company to profit from the Land Registry’s legal and statutory duties risks the stability of the housing market and would increase costs to homebuyers and small businesses.'
The government's consultation on the sale closes on 26 May.