The Government has issued a consultation paper for the privatisation of the Land Registry. This forms part of its wider aim of £5 billion of additional corporate and financial asset sales by March 2020- the sale of the Land Registry will clearly provide an easy capital receipt for the Government.
The Land Registry is the register of the ownership of land in England and Wales. Information in the register is publicly available, including the price that was paid on the last purchase of a property. It is understood the register holds approximately 24m registered property titles.
In this controversial move, it is argued the sale could help to support the Land Registry be run more efficiently and to more effectively support the UK property market. Anyone who works closely with the Land Registry will know that Government cuts to the Land Registry over the past few years has resulted in long delays, with some applications now taking over 6 months to be processed!
The consultation paper puts forward a number of options, where it is emphasised the data and the land register will continue to be owned by the Government. However, the timing of the announcement has already been criticised as it was "snuck in" before the Easter break. In addition, much of the press commentary flags that by the end of this parliament the Government is expected to have made the biggest wave of privatisations since Margaret Thatcher and so opposition to the move is expected.
We will be closely following the progress of these proposals. If the Land Registry is sold off, what will be important is that it is properly and carefully managed as it will directly impact upon the many, many property transactions that take place throughout the country every single day.
The Land Registry is being put for up for sale less than two years after the Liberal Democrats blocked previous plans for a £1bn-plus privatisation.