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Monday, June 30, 2014

Vince's decision not to privatise the Land Registry is the right one

The Mail on Sunday reports that Vince Cable has scrapped controversial plans to privatise the Land Registry. Having worked there for 17 years, I very much welcome this decision.

The proposal to carry out this privatisation was madness in the first place and would have done nothing to enhance the very effective service that the Land Registry provides. Indeed, I told Vince as much at the Welsh Liberal Democrats Conference in Newport a few months ago.

What I said in my submission to the consultation still holds true. As a Trading Fund the Land Registry already has the flexibility to innovate and reinvest surpluses as is evidenced by its very successful sale and publication of quarterly house price information. It has also been for some time a flagship department in terms of customer service.

The present set-up is independent, transparent and accountable. The proposed change was not. The Land Registry is a staff-orientated department with a good record in training and continuing professional development. A private company would not have made that investment and as a result the quality of service would have suffered.

The integrity of the land register relies primarily on government guarantee backed up by statute and confidence in the quality of the Land Registry's work. The proposal had the potential to undermine both. I was not convinced that a private company would put the integrity of the register ahead of its other aims and objectives as the Land Registry currently does.

Changing the status quo by placing the integrity of the register in the hands of a contractual relationship would have been fraught with difficulties. The Land Registry currently has a 98% customer satisfaction rating. These proposals would have put that in jeopardy as well as the jobs of hundreds of staff in the region I represent.
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