Public and Commercial Services Union
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Land Registry sell-off would increase risks and costs to homebuyers

Privatising the Land Registry would increase risks and costs to homebuyers, PCS says in its formal response to the government’s consultation.

The proposal is based on a political choice, not economic necessity, driven by the Treasury's demand for cuts and short-term returns, the union says. It is neither required nor being requested by anyone who works in the industry.

The union is developing a major campaign against the plans, alongside legal professionals. More than 200,000 people have already signed a petition against a sell-off.

Shelving similar proposals in July 2014, ministers revealed only 5% of respondents to its consultation agreed privatisation would make the Land Registry more efficient and effective.

The union notes the Land Registry: has returned more than £240 million to the Treasury over the last two years; has reduced fees to customers; enjoys a 95% customer satisfaction; has increased total land registration in England and Wales to 85% from 48% in 2005; and is already innovating through better use of technology.

  • The government has not carried out an assessment of the risks of privatisation, and key issues the union raises include:
  • No guarantee that fees to homebuyers and others will not increase – the union believes it is inevitable as a private company would be required to make a profit
  • Short-term financial gain would be far outweighed by the long-term consequences of undermining a trusted, impartial and highly successful public service, putting at risk the stability of the housing market and the wider economy
  • Conflict of interest and lack of incentive of a commercial organisation to provide open data on land and property ownership, including efforts to tackle offshore ownership of the kind exposed in the Panama papers
  • Regulation of other privatised industries, such as energy and rail, has not delivered on its promises to reduce costs and improve services

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This sell-off plan is being driven by short-term political choice, not economic necessity, and is deeply dangerous.

“Allowing a private company to profit from the Land Registry’s legal and statutory duties risks the stability of the housing market and would increase costs to homebuyers and small businesses.”

Land Registry consultation response

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