Land registry privatisation plans slammed by Law Society
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Regulation
Standard housing pictureImage: Housing via Shutterstock
The Law Society has slammed a government consultation on the introduction of a Land Registry service delivery company, warning that the proposals could undermine the integrity of the register.
The society has said that the "importance of the integrity of the register should not be underestimated", and that granting and validating legal title must be carried out with impartiality.
Jonathan Smithers, Law Society deputy vice-president, said: "Our members are one of Land Registry's main customer groups and solicitors are broadly satisfied with the service they currently receive.
"The Law Society does not have a political leaning towards any particular business model, but the Land Registry is part of the UK's critical national infrastructure and we are concerned that the proposals for Land Registry could undermine the register's integrity and introduce conflicts of interest with potentially adverse economic results."
The Law Society has acknowledged that organisations can benefit from reviewing the services they provide but has raised several concerns, including:
• The rationale for splitting policy making and delivery is not explained. Such a split risks creating increased layers of operation, making the process more complex and increasing costs.
• Concerns about the ability of the Office of the Chief Land Registrar to regulate and manage a service delivery company effectively, particularly given government's previous attempts at managing external agencies.
• Concerns that non-registration services could become the most important part of the business to shareholders of a privatised entity, particularly if there are no statutory control on prices, resulting in resources being diverted away from core registration services.
The society has called on the government to be more specific about the benefits for the public of its proposals, particularly in view of the inherent risks.
If the government proceeds with the split and sets up a service delivery company, the Law Society's preferred option would be a 100% government-owned company.