The government has paused its plans to privatise the Land Registry, according to multiple reports.
The business department announced earlier this year that it wanted to move the Land Registry – which maintains an up-to-date register of property transactions in England and Wales – to the private sector by 2017, as part of wider plans to raise £5bn for the Treasury through asset sales.
But the proposals – which represent a second attempt to privatise the organisation currently employing more than 4,000 civil servants – have been attacked by MPs from both sides of the House of Commons, as well as by trade unions and organisations including the Open Data Institute and the Competition and Markets Authority.
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Both the Financial Times and The Guardian now report that the plans have been put on ice after the government's new Neighbourhood Planning Bill – which the Queen’s Speech in May promised would include measures to "enable the privatisation of Land Registry" – was published without any reference to the organisation.
Responding to the reports, a government spokesperson said: “No decision has been taken on the future of the Land Registry. A consultation on the Land Registry’s future closed in May and we are carefully considering our response. It is only right that new ministers take time to look at all their options before making a decision.”
But the Public and Commercial Services union, which has pointed out that the Land Registry already provides an annual dividend to the Treasury, said the plans appeared to have been "quietly dropped".
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "We showed two years ago, and again this time round, that selling off the Land Registry would be stupid and wrong, serving only private companies looking to profit from homeowners' data.
“We welcome the government's pause, but the plan should be scrapped in its entirety, never to see the light of day again, and the Land Registry should remain fully in public hands."