Saturday, 26 March 2016

The asset-stripping of Britain continues

At a time when there should be more public knowledge of property ownership, guaranteed by an arm of government, Cameron, Osborne and cronies plan to sell the Land Registry of England and Wales. An announcement of a "consultation" (and we all know what that means) was sneaked out just before the holidays when most MPs had already departed Westminster. If this administration runs true to form (James Moore's commentary here), shares in the private company will be placed with a merchant cabal at a price less than two-thirds of true asset value, while the taxpayer continues to fund employees' pensions. But that is not the worst aspect of the sell-off.

Peter Black AM, who has knowledge of the Land Registry unrivalled within the Welsh Assembly, outlined back in November the needless damage which privatisation would inflict. He pointed out that Tory pressure for the sale was resisted by Liberal Democrat ministers during the period of the Coalition. I would also warn of the dangers that putting the Registry totally within the private sector would bring, including pricing (already too high in my opinion) which could make enquiries by ordinary people prohibitive, and pressures by large corporations threatening the objectivity of the organisation. I doubt the strength of the safeguards proposed in the official media release.

It appears from the wikipedia entry on land registration that England and Wales would be unique in the civilised world in putting the operation of the registry in private hands. Even in the Land of the Free, individual state governments administer land registers.

Scotland, which anticipated England and Wales by over two hundred yearshas more sense.

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