The government has confirmed that it is looking to revive plans to privatise parts of HM Land Registry.
As part of an attempt to raise £5bn from the sale of corporate and financial assets, the Spending Review and Autumn Statement document published today says the government will ‘consult on options to move operations of the Land Registry to the private sector from 2017’, subject to a value for money assessment.
In July last year coalition ministers shelved a plan to turn the bulk of the organisation, which records all property transactions in England and Wales, into a standalone company in the run-up to privatisation.
Although the plan would have kept a core office of the chief land registrar within the public sector, it was widely condemned by conveyancing and legal experts.
Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said today: ‘The possible privatisation of the Land Registry has been considered for a long time, and the decision following the last consultation was postponed, not rejected. It has now been revived and we look forward to seeing the details of the government’s proposals for moving the operation of the Land Registry to the private sector from 2017. We are particularly interested to see how the government conducts the “value for money” assessment. We would urge the government to ensure that any plans for privatisation protect the integrity of the register given its fundamental importance in underpinning the economy.’
Following today's announcement, Andrew Lloyd, managing director of property search specialist Search Acumen, said: ‘Any move to privatise Land Registry operations must not be allowed to put barriers in the way of access to property and land data, which is vital to understanding the market and improving its performance.
‘This year’s Infrastructure Act set the wheels in motion for Land Registry to improve data access, standardise fees, achieve better turnaround times and explore new services to benefit conveyancing and the wider property sector.
‘This mission should be applauded, and must not be compromised by the desire to make a short-term profit from an organisation that already generates a surplus for the Treasury. Now is not the time to pull the rug out from under Land Registry’s feet.’
Trade union PCS said it would fight the proposals. A spokesperson said: 'It's outrageous that after staff, the legal profession and the public united against the last government's attempt to sell off the registry, the Tories are coming back for it again. There should be no doubt that we will oppose this again with every means at our disposal.'