Autumn Statement: Land Registry privatisation shelved

Written by Matt Foster on 23 November 2016 in News

Land Registry "will remain in the public sector", Autumn Statement confirms, as PCS hails campaign victory

Ministers have shelved their plan to privatise the Land Registry, the Treasury has confirmed.

The business department announced earlier this year that it wanted to move the Land Registry – which keeps an up-to-date register of property transactions in England and Wales and which currently employs more than 4,000 civil servants – to the private sector by 2017.

Ministers said the move would help improve the public finances and enhance the running of the Land Registry. But the proposals met fierce resistance from trade unions, transparency campaigners, and even Conservative backbenchers, with critics pointing out that the organisation already returns money to the Treasury and arguing that a sell-off could create conflicts of interest in the property market.

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Land Registry privatisation: Tory committee chair Bernard Jenkin warns against sale for a "quick profit"

The privatisation failed to appear as expected in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill earlier this year, and Wednesday's Autumn Statement confirmed that the plans had been completely abandoned.

"Following consultation the government has decided that HM Land Registry should focus on becoming a more digital data-driven registration business, and to do this will remain in the public sector," the Autumn Statement document says.

"Modernisation will maximise the value of HM Land Registry to the economy, and should be completed without a need for significant Exchequer investment."

The U-turn was hailed as a victory by the Public and Commercial Services union, which said it had "now defeated this dangerous plan twice in two years" and said it was "fantastic news for homebuyers" and staff. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka added: “The overwhelming opposition from the public and industry professionals shows how deeply unpopular privatisation is and we will continue to fight to ensure our services are run for the benefit of the public, not for profit.”

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Matt Foster
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Matt Foster is deputy editor of Civil Service World. He tweets as @CSWDepEd

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