The government is reported to have yet again delayed a decision on whether to privatise the Land Registry.
The Financial Times says reference to the measure was to have been included in the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill, due to go before parliament last evening. However, the FT says “sources close to government confirmed it had decided to delay a decision.”
Back in August 2014 it was reported that up to 15 per cent of jobs at Land Registry offices were at risk because of alleged over-capacity; some critics took this to be a way of changing the operations of the service to make private investment more attractive. At that time, during the then-Coalition government, the Business Secretary Sir Vince Cable vetoed privatisation proposals.
However, in the spring of this year a statement from the now-defunct Department of Business, Innovation and Skills - accompanying a consultation document on proposals for the Registry - said: “The preferred model being proposed is a privatisation of Land Registry consisting of a contract between government and a private operator, with all the core functions transferred out of the public sector, but with key safeguards for Land Registry customers and government being maintained.”
It went on: “The sale of Land Registry will allow government to pay down debt, or enable other investment for the benefit of taxpayers. It is expected that a move into the private sector would also allow Land Registry to become even more efficient and effective as part of its transformation programme.”
The proposal drew huge criticism from an array of industry and public bodies, including the Competitions and Markets Authority, the Conveyancing Association and the Residential Property Surveyors’ Association.
There is now no indication whether this latest delay signifies a mere rethink on the proposal, following the official consultation, or a de facto abandonment of the idea.