On the last day before the Easter bank holiday, Chancellor George Osborne announced his intention to privatise the Land Registry. The last attempt to privatise the Land Registry was shelved by the Lib Dems a few years back, but a potential sale has resurfaced as part of the Chancellor’s £20bn privatisation bonanza.
The Land Registry underpins the UK property market which makes owning property secure and attractive to the world at large. It is a self-funding department, employing 4,500 civil servants and holds over 24 million titles which are backed by a £1tn guarantee. The Land Registry not only processes the registration of properties; it also deal with disputes, ownership issues and fraud prevention. Most importantly, it is independent and impartial.
Selling off the Land Registry would expose land registration to possible exploitation and, although there may be short term cost benefits, there is a huge question mark over a sell-off. Indeed, the competition watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority, has objected to the proposed sell off as it believes a new owner might have a monopoly on commercially-valuable, sensitive data and may impose a hike on registration fees.
Likely bidders include Zoopla and Rightmove who will have their subjective, commercial interests in mind – perhaps not the best gate keepers.
So far over 225,000 individuals have signed a petition against the proposed privatisation which will be presented to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills on 26 May.
For more information or for any conveyancing enquiries Matthew Stewart, a Partner in the Property Law department, can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7408 8888.