The row over the future of Land Registry of England and Wales heated up last week when the union representing agency staff accused the government of keeping secret plans for radical changes in its services.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) was responding to a government proposal to transform the bulk of Land Registry into a ‘service delivery company’, with possible private shareholders.

Vigorously opposing the proposals, which it described as ‘astonishing’, the union demanded that the government publish its plan for ‘significant changes in the way land registration is delivered’. This is believed to involve much greater use of electronic channels.

Answering a question in parliament, business secretary Vince Cable said that, as the changes would be affected by the privatisation consultation, ‘it would be misleading to provide further details’.

The PCS said that, in the absence of information on planned changes, the consultation is flawed, and it will be impossible for the public and businesses to reach an informed view.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka accused ministers of ‘withholding key information and denying the public and businesses the chance to reach an informed view’.

In its submission to the consultation, the union says the government has failed to say why a new operating model is needed. It notes the Land Registry has a customer satisfaction rating of 98% and operates at no cost to the taxpayer.

‘Far from being the most transparent ever, this looks more like smoke and mirrors from a government preparing to gift a trusted 150-year-old institution to a private company,’ Serwotka said.

An e-petition opposing privatisation has attracted 2,155 signatures. The consultation closes on 20 March.