The government has confirmed that plans to sell the Land Registry of England and Wales to the private sector will no longer go ahead.
Earlier this year a consultation on the controversial sale was helped – the second in two years – which proposed transferring the Land Registry operations to a ‘NewCo’ with a private sector shareholding.
The plan was widely criticised by members of the legal and property profession and their representative organisations, such as the Law Society.
In September it was clear that these criticisms had some impact on the policy decision when privatisation proposals were dropped from the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill.
However, it was within the Autumn Statement that it became clear that plans would be dropped. It states: “Following consultation the government has decided that HM Land Registry should focus on becoming a more digital data-driven registration business, and to do this will remain in the public sector.”
The statement coincided with the announcement of a contract to create a central register of local land charges data, to be managed by Land Registry, which will “maximise the value of HM Land Registry to the economy, and should be completed without a need for significant exchequer investment.”
The Law Society’s Chief Executive Catherine Dixon welcomed the announcement. She said: “This decision responds to the representations we, and other Land Registry users, made as to the risks of privatisation, and puts the public interests in this important institution first. We look forward to working with the Land Registry to assist it in delivering its ambitious modernisation plans.”
Eddie Goldsmith, Chairman of The Conveyancing Association agreed, he said: “We are very pleased that within the detail of today’s Autumn Statement we have the announcement that HM Land Registry will now not be privatised. The CA responded to the consultation on this matter and the vast majority of our members were in favour of the Land Registry remaining in the public sector, so we are clearly very supportive of today’s clarification.
“Interestingly, the Autumn Statement suggests that the Land Registry should become ‘a more digital data-driven registration business’ and that ‘modernisation will maximise the value of [it] to the economy’. This, in effect, is a steer that it should focus on its core role of registration and delivering this through a digital process, which one assumes should include such things as e-signatures.
“We are fully supportive of moves towards an up-to-date digital conveyancing service. If we’re able to see the Land Registry moving swiftly in this direction then this ambition will be achieved much more quickly.”