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Posted on 6 May 2014 at 13:50 GMT

Striking against Land Registry cuts

Dave Lunn, vice president, PCS Land Registry group, personal capacity

PCS members working for the Land Registry will hold a two-day strike against privatisation, job cuts and office closures on 14 and 15 May

We have organised a massive campaign, with the support of industry professionals and MPs, against proposals to privatise the Land Registry. The strike is part of this campaign but specifically over Land Registry's failure to give assurances that there won't be any office closures or compulsory redundancies.

Since 1862 the Land Registry has recorded the ownership of land and property in England and Wales and produces data on house prices and transactions that are used by the government to make policy decisions.

The privatisation proposals are a real threat to the government guarantee of title, will drive up the cost of house buying, force small, local high-street solicitors out of business and threatens the stability of the housing market.

LR underpins the guarantee of title of 3 trillion of property, and its registers are part of the critical national infrastructure. As a government trading fund, it is self-funding, doesn't cost taxpayers a penny and has returned money to the Treasury in 19 of the last 20 years - 98 million in 2013, while continuing to reduce its fees. LR has a customer satisfaction rating of over 98%. It has also been able to reduce registration fees as a result of its success.

Highly respected

The Land Registry is a highly-respected and trusted institution. It is profitable. Yet the coalition government believes it would be better value for money if it were privatised.

LR's dedicated workforce of impartial civil servants are committed to ensuring that every entry onto the register is correct. They act independently of every vested interest and seek to ensure that errors are detected and corrected, and that fraudsters are thwarted.

They face continued uncertainty as the result of plans to part-privatise Land Registry, to close offices and make more than 1,000 of the workforce redundant.

Our members have been left with no choice but to take industrial action to try to force management to the negotiating table for meaningful discussions around our reasonable demands.

No assurances

Management has failed to give assurances that there will be no office closures, indeed the head of the Land Registry Ed Lester has stated there will be. He has also failed to give assurances that there will be no enforced redundancies or that there will be no privatisation.

The PCS Alternative Vision For HM Land Registry, by professor Roger Seifert of Wolverhampton university, makes the case that the land register - currently covering about 80% of the land in England and Wales - must be completed to create a quasi-Domesday Book for the 21st century.

This would allow for a proper public debate on land ownership and pave the way for regulation of the planning of land use in the future, something which the Land Registry could carry out for the public good.

The recent public consultation had more than 300 responses, despite the consultation being for only eight weeks, and many industry professionals not being aware of it before the campaign against privatisation was launched.

Throughout the process our members have been campaigning to stop the sell-off, pointing out that LR performs well as a trading fund, returning a profit for the taxpayer and delivering an excellent service.

We ask the government to reconsider these ill-founded plans and preserve the Land Registry in its current form.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 6 May 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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