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Monday, May 23, 2016

Selling off the Land Registry will leave government worse off

I have already responded to the Tory Government's consultation on privatising the Land Registry, essentially telling them that the idea is bonkers and will undermine the service that they provide as well as putting the integrity of the register at risk.

A far more rational and significantly better argued case against selling off the agency by John Manthorpe, a former Chief Land Registrar and Chief Executive of Land Registry and an International Consultant on Land Registration systems, can be read here.

This proposal of course, has two objectives, to make the government some money and to reward the private sector with some supposedly low-hanging fruit. That is why Liberal Democrats Business Secretary, Vince Cable vetoed the idea when we were in coalition. Now that the Liberal Democrats are not there the Tories are proceeding anyway.

Like all such privatisations the long term consequences of this sell-off have not been properly assessed. This is evident from a new study by the New Economic Foundation, which concludes that although George Osborne will gain in the short term, over a longer period the Treasury will actually lose money on the sale.

The Guardian say that the New Economic Foundation report for the campaign group We Own It found that selling the Land Registry would mean the British public would start to lose money in 25 years’ time. They add that the authors estimate that the impact of selling off other public assets would be felt even sooner. If the public stake in National Air Traffic Services (NATS) were sold, for example, resultant losses would start being felt within seven years.

Cat Hobbs, We Own It’s director, said: “George Osborne can’t have his cake and eat it. If he goes ahead with the Great British sell-off, we’ll have lost our public assets forever – and all the millions of profit they bring in every year.

“The Land Registry is a profitable, successful, innovative organisation doing a great job – why privatise it? We need to think about the wealth of the next generation, not just a quick fix on the deficit.”

That is absolutely right. The Treasury's obsession with PFI was discredited some time ago, now we are seeing the case for the delivery of public services by the private sector being undermined as well.

The fact is that when assessments are made of the costs and benefits of involving private organisations in the delivery of public services, they are not properly robust and they do not take into account long term considerations. That needs to change.
We buy our house, car other goods from our own hard earned money. However we unexpectedly fall on hard times. We have not saved 'cos of the derisory interest rates. We then embrace monetarism, consumerism knowing the price of everything but not its value. We have to sell our assets to get out of the mess, or go, cap in hand to the banks, we are at their mercy, we no longer control our lives.
Likewise we sell off our countries assets (latest, Land Registry) not holding on to our assets to protect from future problems. Suddenly we are short of money 'cos of unexpected events that the country has to deal with. We have to go to the IMF cap in hand. We are now at their mercy, we no longer own our country. A Greek like scenario of drastic reductions put on us 'cos of our profligacy we become poorer.
Not holding on to the countries assets is short sighted benefits those who do not need the money be it the rich or other countries shareholders.
It is about time we had a national campaign to stop sell-offs.
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