Posts Tagged ‘Charges’

Private Eye on Plans to Introduces Charges and Privatise Land Registry

April 27, 2016

This past fortnight’s Private Eye also has an article on the government’s plans to introduce charges for using the Land Registry, which they are also currently trying to privatise. Private Eye has covered the proposed privatisation in its ‘In the Back’ section, because of the threat this poses to freedom of information. The Eye has used the Land Registry to track some of the various companies holding vast chunks of land in our fair country back to offshore tax havens. The article runs

Cash Registry

No sooner has the last Eye gone to press, revealing the Land Registry’s plan to frustrate a supposed move towards transparency by charging thousands of pounds for information on offshore companies holding property, than business secretary Sajid Javid said the organisation would be privatised.

His time – as the Panama leaks again show the value of public access to who owns what land and property – was less than ideal.

There is no pretence that the sale, which will further threaten the 150-7ear-old body’s inclination to act in the public interest, is for any reason other than to raise around £1bn to reduce the national debt. This is about 0.06 per cent total government debt and far outweighed by the benefit that a publicly-owned, fully open register would provide in fighting tax evasion and corruption.

Javid claimed, with a straight face, that a privatised Land Registry would benefit from “private capital discipline” and that service would be protected by “key performance indicators” while creating “innovative, new products”. The people who use it, however, disagree fundamentally.

When the coalition floated the idea of farming the Land Registry out to a separate company in 2014, the response was resounding raspberry. Rejecting the plan, the government said: “91 percent of respondents did not acre that creating a more delivery-focused organisation at arm’s length from government would enable Land Registry to carry out its operations more efficiently and effectively.” Only 5 per cent thought it would.

Since most responses were from people working in the property business Javid now says he wants to serve, this was a resounding rejection of a step that was less dramatic than the privatisation now proposed. “Across the world, a trusted system of land registration is central to social stability and economic success,” said former Land Registrar John Manthorpe of the “misguided” plan.

So far one private equity group, Advent International, has expressed an interest. It already owns a number of businesses in the UK such as money transfer company Worldpay – not directly, of course, but through the tax haven of Luxembourg. Just the people for a “trusted system of land registration”.
(Private Eye, 15th-28th April, p. 1).

I don’t agree with the Eye’s conclusion that the privatisation is being done to pay off the debt. The money raised from the sale is too small to make any difference. It looks to me far more to be another ideologically-driven privatisation, done largely to provide their big business donors with yet another state industry. And the charging and privatisation is also being done to keep it out of the reach of the general public, who could use it to draw the highly embarrassing information about British capitalism and landownership that the Eye has done from using it.

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