The Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black has criticised a consultation by the UK Conservative government on their plans for a £1 billion-plus privatisation of the Land Registry as being one-side with a pre-determined outcome.
Mr. Black has responded to the Department of Business’ consultation document arguing that the best way to maintain a high quality, innovative and customer-focussed service by the Land Registry is to retain it in public hands. However, the document makes it clear that the government is not open to that argument and has already decided to go-ahead with the sell-off.
The Land Registry controls the records of all property transactions in England and Wales and currently employs about 400 people in Swansea. Mr. Black is concerned that many of those jobs will be at risk if the business is privatised.
"I am astonished that this proposal has been revived so soon after it was rejected by the previous Liberal Democrat Minister," said Mr. Black. "There was a very thorough examination of the privatisation plan then and Ministers concluded that it would not add value. That the government has apparently already made up its mind to proceed with a sell-off makes their consultation meaningless.
"The Land Registry is an important employer in the Swansea area that makes a surplus which is reinvested in its business. It is an innovative and successful government-run business with a good reputation for customer service.
"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. There is no evidence that the proposal to privatise it will improve on that?"
"The present set-up is independent, transparent and accountable. The proposed change is not. The Land Registry is a staff-orientated department with a good record in training and continuing professional development. A private company would not make that investment and as a result the quality of service will suffer and jobs will be put at risk."