Plans to privatise the Land Registry could cost 400 jobs in the North East and take £10m out of the economy, an MP has warned.
Roberta Blackman-Woods, Labour MP for the City of Durham, said the proposal could mean the closure of the North East’s only Land Registry office.
Ministers were urged to rethink plans to sell or part-privatise the Land Registry, the body responsible for recording the ownership of land and property.
The Government launched a consultation in January to assess whether the body, 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 Roberta Blackman-Woods, Labour MP for the City of Durham, warned the Government that the move could damage the local economy.
Speaking in the House of Commons she warned: “There is a large Land Registry office in Durham. Many local people are concerned about the possible consequences of the proposed changes announced in the consultation, should they go ahead.
“Significantly, they are concerned, as am I, about the potential impact on jobs in Durham.”
Durham has had a Land Registry for nearly 50 years and it is believed to contribute £10 million a year to the local economy, she said.
It also employed more than 400 skilled staff.
Ministers have set out three possible changes for the Land Registry, saying it could become a business wholly owned by the Government, jointly owned by Government and a private sector company, or owned by Government but buying services from the private sector rather than providing them directly.
Mrs Blackman-Woods said: “I hardly need remind the Minister that Durham’s economy has gone through a difficult period and is not yet fully experiencing what the Government are referring to as an economic upturn.
“Perhaps that is about to happen, but at the moment, things are still pretty depressed locally, leading to additional concern about what will happen to the Land Registry and the jobs that go with it if the proposals go through.
“The Land Registry office in Durham provides many good-quality jobs that we desperately need locally, and I do not want that to be diminished in any way by potential privatisation.”
Responding for the Government, Business Minister Michael Fallon said the Land Regsitry had to change.
He said: “As we look to the future, it is important that the Land Registry is able to modernise successfully and move into the digital age.
“The Land Registry already provides a number of services through digital channels, but it is looking to become a leader in digitising land and property services, and in the management and reuse of land and property data.”
A Law Society spokesman said: “While the Law Society does not have any philosophical or political leaning towards any particular model, it is keen to ensure that, as part of the UK’s critical national infrastructure, a change of status does not undermine confidence in the register for all users, including government.”