400 Land Registry jobs in Durham are saved - for now

Ministers have stopped plans to sell or part-privatise the Land Registry, including a Durham office which employs 400 people

County Durham
County Durham

Ministers have announced a rethink over plans to sell or part-privatise the Land Registry, following warnings the proposal could cost 400 jobs in the North East and take £10m out of the economy.

Business Minister Michael Fallon revealed the changes would not go ahead, following a wave of opposition.

But MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said she would be seeking reassurances the plan had been scrapped - and not just delayed.

She has warned privatisation could mean the closure of the North East’s only Land Registry office, in Durham.

The Government launched a consultation in January to assess whether the Land Registry, currently part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, should be turned into a government-owned organisation that could then be sold or managed by the private sector.

But the Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, has warned the change could reduce public confidence in the register.

And Mrs Blackman-Woods, Labour MP for the City of Durham, warned that the move could damage the North East economy, as she led a debate in the House of Commons earlier this year.

She told Ministers that Durham’s Land Registry employed more than 400 skilled staff and is believed to contribute £10 million a year to the local economy.

Business Minister Michael Fallon has now announced that the proposal won’t go ahead, at least for now.

In a statement to the House of Commons, he said: “Given the importance of the Land Registry to the effective operation of the UK property market, we have concluded that further consideration would be valuable.

“Therefore, at this time, no decision has been taken to change Land Registry’s model.”

The Land Registry was changing to become less reliant on paper records, he said.

“The business has already started its digital transformation, which has resulted in the organisation’s head-count reducing by more than half over the last 20 years.”

Responding to the announcement, Mrs Blackman-Woods said: “It looks as if they are putting it on hold.

“We don’t know if it is just just until the election, or a real scrapping of the privatisation plans.

“Personally what I would like is some reassurance from the government that this has been shelved not only for the short term but for the longer term as well.

“I and lots of other people have been campaigning against this change because we don’t think it is in anyone’s interest to have this service privatised or to move to he government-owned model the government were considering.

“I am worried in case this is just to avoid the Government having a spat before the election and then they’ll bring it back, if they have the opportunity.

“So I will certainly be asking for reassurance from Vince Cable and Michael Fallon that they have accepted there is an overwhelming case against the changes they were proposing to make and that they are just going to scrap the whole idea.”

It’s believed at Westminster that the announcement follows conflict between the Conservatives and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners. Vince Cable, the Lib Dem business secretary, was said to be concerned after his department was criticised over the handling of the Royal Mail sell-off.

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