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Government warned against selling Land Registry

Words: Laura Edgar

Property data provider DealX is warning Government that its plans to privatise the Land Registry should be put on hold.

Instead, the company says focus should be on integrating distributed ledger technology to boost transparency and reduce costs for users.

According to DealX, the potential of distributed ledger technology has not been fully explored. This, the company explained, can make maintaining records “cheaper” and the savings “can then be passed onto the Land Registry’s users”.

In March, business secretary Sajid Javid launched a consultation into the options for moving Land Registry operations into the private sector. The consultation closed at the end of May.

Before the close of the consultation, the Queen’s Speech announced that a Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill will include enabling the privatisation of the Land Registry. 

DealX’s submission to the consultation proposed making every corporate and anonymous private dataset open for general public and commercial use, the same as a company register.

Joseph Kelly, chief executive officer at DealX, said: “Privatising the Land Registry is completely the wrong move - there’s no evidence that private ownership will improve the quality of the data or the service provided. It will only be through public ownership that the registry can take a strategic view on integrating new technology, like distributed ledgers, which is necessary to compete in a digital world.”

In May, the British Property Federation (BPF), which represents those who own and invest in commercial property, warned the government not to rush into making big changes to the way the Land Registry works, because “any perceived threat to the security of property title in the UK could spook investors”.

In its response to the consultation, the BPF said the security of title is “one of the biggest attractions” for overseas investors in UK real estate, “who have steadily become more important players in the commercial property market”.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the BPF, said the federation’s concern said that in “the rush to push through these proposals important questions about the quality of service do not get the airing they deserve”.

"Should the government go ahead with privatisation, it is critical that incentives exist for a new operator to invest in service quality and to retain the Land Registry’s deep pool of legal expertise. The Land Registry is often taken for granted but its activities facilitate important and much-needed regeneration across the country,” she said.

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