The government quietly announced plans to privatise the Land Registry on the evening before the Easter holiday weekend. A consultation period has been launched by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skill until the 26th May 2016. Original plans to sell off the agency during the coalition government in 2014 were blocked by Vince Cable, but were revived by the Chancellor in last year’s Autumn Statement.
Although the proposal does state the Land Registry will continue to be owned by the Crown several model suggestions for the future of the agency have been set out; including a joint venture between the government and a private firm, privatisation with an independent economic regulation and privatisation with a contract with the government – which has been highlighted as the preferred method.
This consultation has been met with great opposition, with the government accused of sneaking out the announcement on the last day before government recess to avoid scrutiny. Many petitions demanding a stop to the privatisation, which were started over four months ago after the Autumn Statement was announced, have seen tens of thousands of signatures added to them over the bank holiday as news of the consultation document spread. There have been criticisms implicating that prices will rise and the quality of information and services will come second to profits. The Law Society has warned this proposal will ‘undermine the register’s integrity and introduce conflicts of interest with potentially adverse economic results’.
There have been some reports that the privatisation could speed up digital innovation in the field, but as the outcome of the consultation to confirm which model the agency will work under in the future won’t be clear until May, opposition to the sell-off continues to grow.
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