Profession backs delayed privatisation of Land Registry
Counterproductive plans should be welcomed by buyers and sellers of property, say lawyers
Plans to privatise the Land Registry have been put back by the government in a move welcomed by the legal profession.
Details of the registry's future were expected to feature in the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill but a government source said it was considering its options following a consultation on the plans.
The sale of the Land Registry was posited by former chancellor George Osborne as part of plans to cut the nation's deficit this parliament by raising £5bn from selling state assets.
The Law Society of England and Wales has applauded the decision to delay plans to privatise the institution.
'Privatising the Land Registry would create a range of serious risks to this vital piece of national infrastructure, which supports and ensures the integrity of property ownership in this country,' said Law Society president Robert Bourns. 'All implications must be fully considered before any decision on whether to sell is made.'
The Law Society has previously expressed concerns over the way a privatised Land Registry would operate, including: the potential loss of public trust and confidence in the registry, adverse effects on combatting money laundering and the risk of fee increases to generate profits for private owners at the expense of property buyers.
Bourns said the delay indicated the government are taking these concerns seriously. 'The government previously indicated they would carefully consider the vocal feedback they have received from the legal sector and beyond on this issue, and it is pleasing to see them following through on this commitment rather than rushing to keep an arbitrary timeframe.'
A government source said: 'No decision has been taken on the future of the Land Registry.
'A consultation on the Land Registry's future closed in May and we are carefully considering our response. It is only right that new ministers take time to look at all their options before making a decision.'
Private client firm Wilsons has said the government's decision should be welcomed by property buyers and sellers as it is more likely to preserve service standards.
Wilsons said that the government's proposals 'lacked sufficient safeguards to protect consumers'. It singled out the government's failure to set out a framework for customer complaints.
Tim Clayden, Partner at Wilsons, said: 'The millions of property buyers and sellers who use the Land Registry's services each year should welcome the government's decision to shelve what was a counterproductive plan to privatise it.'
'Service standards at the Land Registry have already suffered slightly in recent years. The Land Registry has undergone substantial cuts to its staff numbers which has made it harder to get to the bottom of issues when they occur.
'It was difficult to support that case for privatisation when there was no detail at all on how the private business would be held accountable for errors.'
Matthew Rogers is a legal reporter at Solicitors Journal @sportslawmatt firstname.lastname@example.org