Did you know there are plans to privatise the Land Registry?
The Government is pushing for a sell-off of the Land Registry in 2017 but there is a worrying lack of awareness of the proposals with much of the press otherwise distracted by the EU Referendum. A public consultation has now closed although it was not widely publicised.
The Land Registry’s role is fundamental in documenting property ownership and is a highly respected and trusted institution. It quietly and efficiently records the ownership of land and property in England and Wales, and produces data on house prices that are used by the Government to make policy decisions, whilst still making a profit. Last year alone, it paid the Exchequer more than £100 Million in dividends. Its role is crucial as land ownership and land security underpin our whole economy. Any property bought or sold relies on the Land Registry granting and transferring title; it is the only proof of title or ownership, recognised by law. Proof of title to a registered property is shown by an Official Copy of the title being downloaded from the Land Registry online portal.
The proposal is being pushed through to raise money to minimise the public debt; a short term money spinner with long term financial and security implications.
Under public ownership the Land Registry has shown itself to be innovative and forward thinking and has fully embraced the opportunities IT provide. It has developed new services, new approaches and has reduced its workforce. It is an efficient and cost effective public service.
There is widespread cross party concern from those involved in the property industry about the proposals, including;
a) National security – is it right for such a vital role to be owned by, potentially, a foreign company or power?
b) Fees – these will inevitably increase to fund the profit element;
c) IT security – property fraud / cyber crime is on the increase; investing in security could be one of the areas for a private company to reduce costs and this could undermine the system;
d) The Government recognises the importance of ownership of the Registers being retained but it is difficult to see how this could be guaranteed given the reliance on the people inputting the data and on having a robust IT system;
e) Is it right for a private company to receive the profit with the Government providing a state-backed guarantee to the information held on the register? If the private company fails, the Government will pick up the bill;
f) The Land Registry is an impartial compiler of data; commercial interests will inevitably alter this;
g) A huge amount of personal data / information about you will transfer to private ownership;
h) Some Statutory functions are so vital for our economy they should be owned and run by the Government. Its functions and the data it holds are vital to all parts of the economy.
If the system which is wholly reliant on a safe and secure IT system fails, the consequences would be catastrophic. The financial consequences for the Exchequer of a total IT failure would be devastating given it is custodian of records for over £3 Trillion worth of UK Property.
Last year former Chief Land Registrar John Manthorpe said the role of the Land Registry “is not an activity that any responsible Government can pass to the private sector.” It is fair to say the overwhelming majority of the property industry agrees with this statement.
If you agree then please sign the Petitions following the links below:
If you have any questions related to the Land Registry, then please contact Tim Atkins on 01726 74433 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.