The Government has abandoned its plans to privatise the Land Registry, for now.
The register has been recording the UK’s land and property deals since 1862, so it was big news when the Coalition kicked off a consultation back in January to look into the idea of a JV with a private firm.
However, after months of deliberation and talk of a £1bn+ valuation, a written statement issued by the Business Minister Michael Fallon confirmed that “no decision has been taken to change the Land Registry’s model”.
Some reports have alluded to a serious disagreement between Lib Dems and Tories over the matter; the Telegraph reckons Vince Cable is “determined to block all sell-offs until after a review into the Government’s privatisation process by Lord Myners”.
Here’s the official line from the Business Minister…
Today I am publishing our response to the consultation on the Introduction of a Land Registry Service Delivery Company.
Land Registry has recently celebrated its landmark 150th year and continues to be a cornerstone of property ownership in England and Wales. It undertakes a range of functions and responsibilities which are critical to the effective functioning of the property market. Land Registry has developed an ambitious new Business Strategy which includes moving complex applications online and automating processes.
This requires a complete change both in the way that the business is operated and managed, and in its IT architecture. In light of the scale and complexity of this transformation, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills launched a consultation which proposed to introduce a new service delivery company with the governance and incentives to be able to deliver it effectively. The consultation received a good response and we have endeavoured to address and clarify the issues raised where possible in the response published today.
Given the importance of the Land Registry to the effective operation of the UK property market, we have concluded that further consideration would be valuable.
Therefore, at this time, no decision has been taken to change Land Registry’s model.
It may be helpful to note that measures introduced in the Infrastructure Bill amend the Land Registration Act 2002 and Local Land Charges Act 1975 are changes required for Land Registry to play a wider role in the property market and to take on responsibility for providing a single, digital Local Land Charge register. The Infrastructure Bill does not include any measures having the aim of changing Land Registry’s model and introducing a new service delivery company. The Government’s ambition for effective, digital-by-default data services remains an underlying policy objective.
The business has already started its digital transformation, which has resulted in the organisation’s headcount reducing by more than half over the last 20 years. This modernisation will continue irrespective of the need to consider further the Land Registry’s commercial model, and will deliver improved services for customers.