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By the time you read this article the Land Registry will be on strike for only the second time in its 150 year history (remember the one in the early 80s).

The strike is intended to last for two days, (Wednesday and Thursday). Why are Land Registry employees taking such drastic action

The Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) recently published a Consultation Document. BIS propose that Her Majesty's Land Registry should cease to be a public department of government. It proposes to create a new company to undertake the registration of title to land and all associated legal interests.

It confirms that its proposals:

include options for moving assets to the private sector where there is no longer a strong policy reason for continued public ownership . . .

Whilst it asserts that no decision has been made yet on ownership, the models being considered for what it describes as the transformation phase include:

A service delivery company which is 100% owned by Government

A service delivery company which is jointly owned by both Government and a private sector company

A service delivery company which is 100% owned by Government but day to day operations would be the responsibility of a private sector company on behalf of the Governments

Significantly, it makes clear that:

beyond the transformation phase' Government will review the ownership and control of the service delivery company . . .

It must be remembered that the Registry is operating successfully, it is highly rated by customers and it makes no call on funds from the Exchequer. The system of land registration in England and Wales is recognised as world class, its digital developments are highly rated and successful and it has the confidence of those who depend on its specialist services not least conveyancers, lenders and all those supporting the property market.

These proposals to change the status of the Land Registry are likely to have far reaching consequences for those involved in the conveyancing and home moving process (pretty much everyone!) and they could be a transition stage toward full privatisation.

The comment below (edited by me) was posted in The Law Society Gazette (online) last week:

For LR staff it is a relief to have this out in the open. The only way LR can get rid of 1,000 operational staff which is 25% of its workforce (as stated in their business strategy) is to pass that work onto the conveyancing profession who will be expected to access and update the register themselves. This, of course, brings huge risks to the conveyancer because, at present, LR staff check, screen and assess documents, interpreting Land Law, and LR itself guarantees title. Self-serve and e-mandation will shift that responsibility to the legal profession. Any privatisation of LR would also give private companies access to valuable data.

Will the strike adversely affect current transactions

The affect the strike will have on transactions is difficult to gauge. The majority of conveyancers use LR Direct most of the time and it is possible that LR Direct will not be affected. At the moment, I have no way of knowing what management will do in terms of available resource on the days in question.

My advice to conveyancers was to carry out all urgent LR work yesterday in order to make sure that any completions booked in for this week, were not put at risk or delayed.

If the conveyancers you deal with were not aware that the strike was taking place and, as a result have not been able to plan ahead. I suggest you put them in touch with me (rh@boldgroup.co.uk), as they must have been living and working under a rock.

If you are opposed to these changes, please make sure you and your colleagues sign the E-Petition: https://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/60616

*Rob Hailstone is founder of the Bold Legal Group


  • icon

    What aren't valid Timmy

    • 11 September 2014 13:37 PM
  • icon

    When might the LR go private, Rob

    • 14 May 2014 08:55 AM
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