The Conveyancing Association (CA), the leading trade body for the conveyancing industry, has today announced its opposition to the Government’s proposals to move the Land Registry to the private sector.
After a full and frank discussion at its 28th April Management Committee Meeting (MCM) on the proposals from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), and following a vote, a majority of MCM members voted to oppose.
In its response to the consultation on the BIS proposals, the CA highlighted the reasons why members were not in favour of the privatisation. These included a belief that privatisation would not be in the best interests of clients, the conveyancing profession or the Land Registry itself, based on a number of reasons including its experience of previous privatisations.
The CA suggested that any assets realised by such a privatisation would be negligible in terms of any attempt to pay down the UK’s deficit – an argument cited in favour of privatisation – which meant this approach would not work from a financial standpoint.
The Government has argued that its preferred option – privatisation – would maximise capital return while maintaining high levels of quality and service, and reducing the burden of control.
The CA has suggested in its response that such ambitions would not require privatisation; instead it argue for a potential increase in fees, plus a reversal of the recent halving of fees for electronic registrations which would immediately double the Land Registry’s income yet is a relatively small burden for the home buyer in amongst the other costs and charges involved in the process. This new fee structure could be renamed the Land Registration Tax. The CA has argued that in the long-term this revenue gain would exceed the capital return of realisation of the Land Registry asset with less risk.
The CA also said it lacked confidence in a number of areas, namely how the service manager of any privatised Land Registry would be managed in order to meet key performance indicators, how it would maintain the current services offered, and how it would deliver innovation in its core Land Registration activities.
The consultation is available at: http://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/land-registry-moving-operations-to-the-private-sector, and the closing date for responses is 26 May 2016.
Eddie Goldsmith, Chairman of the Conveyancing Association, commented:
“It was very clear from last month’s MCM that, while the vote was not unanimous, a majority of management committee members opposed any privatisation of the Land Registry. Within our consultation response we have therefore set out the reasons for this opposition and we would urge individual CA member firms to issue their own responses, in order that we reflect both a collective view and also to ensure those with a different opinion have their voices heard.
“We are however not so naive as to think that this will mean privatisation is stopped in its tracks. It’s clear that it is the Government’s favoured option and therefore it may go ahead regardless of our views. This is why, within our consultation response, we have suggested a number of safeguards that we would like to see in place, as well as recommendations about how a newly-privatised Land Registry should be managed, overseen and ultimately deliver its services.
“We await the results of the consultation and will be taking a full part in any future proposals that the BIS issues on this incredibly important matter.”