Land Registry workers staging 48-hour strike over privatisation plans

Tony Gosling tony at
Wed May 7 22:07:35 BST 2014

Land Registry workers to stage 48-hour strike over privatisation plans
Thousands of union members to walk out on 14-15 
May as hundreds of jobs under threat from plans to privatise agency

• Read the Land Registry cabal's meeting minutes
In attendance: Mark Boyle (Chair), Tim Franklin, 
Catrina Holm, Ed Lester, Camilla Black, Kirsty 
Pearce, John Peaden, Mike Westcott-Rudd, Gerard 
Connell, Rowland Coombs, Nick Lambrianou, Matt Guntrip, June Baldwin

Rajeev Syal -, Tuesday 6 May 2014 17.02 BST
Thousands of workers at the Land Registry are to 
stage a 48-hour strike in a dispute over plans to 
privatise the 150-year-old agency, which is 
expected to lead to hundreds of job cuts.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services 
(PCS) union in 14 locations across England and 
Wales will walk out on 14 and 15 May, which could 
affect those buying and selling property.
The union said responses to a government 
consultation on the future of the Land Registry 
showed overwhelming opposition to any moves to 
sell the body that registers the ownership of land and property.
The announcement comes after the Guardian 
disclosed how advanced plans are to sell off the 
body that grants land rights, despite ministerial 
protestations that no decision has yet been made.
The PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: 
"Despite clear opposition from staff, lawyers and 
industry professionals, it appears ministers are 
determined to hand over yet another successful 
public asset to the private sector.
"The government has failed to make any kind of 
case for the need to privatise what is a well 
trusted and respected 150-year-old agency. The 
move is for purely political reasons and we are 
committed to doing everything we can to stop it."
Leaked documents show that a Land Registry board 
meeting in March had appointed a legal officer as 
company director and had engaged in detailed 
discussions about the pros and cons of two types 
of privatisation. The meeting did not consider 
the option of keeping the registry as a public asset.
The business minister responsible, Michael 
Fallon, had stated that options would be put out 
for a public consultation before any decision was 
made – and this would include the option of 
retaining the Land Registry as an executive agency of government.
Conservative ministers are in favour of a joint 
venture, sources say. But the Guardian 
understands that the business secretary, Vince 
Cable, will argue in favour of a "GovCo" as he 
believes the government must keep tighter control 
of any potential private-sector partners.
Sources have told the Guardian that both options 
would result in job cuts, but that a joint 
venture would give the government less control over the number of redundancies.
The leaked minutes, over 10 pages of A4, were 
recorded at a four-hour board meeting on 25 
March, days after an initial consultation on a 
new service delivery company had been closed.
The meeting was held in Selsdon Park hotel in 
Croydon, south London, away from registry staff 
(Croydon, I'm reliably informed by a former top 
freemason, is home to the MOST crooked lodges in Britain).
Ed Lester, the LR's chief executive and former 
head of the Student Loans Company, whose tax 
arrangements were criticised for being paid 
through a service company, was one of the board members present.
Under the heading Business Strategy, the board 
appeared to discuss a KPMG presentation on the 
possibility of a private-sector partner (PSP). 
The minutes record how the capital return would 
come in three blocks and note "NPV [net present 
value] equalling £1.225bn, marginally higher than the £1.1bn GovCO valuation".
The minutes also note that under option two – the 
joint venture company – there may be 
"insufficient risk transfer to the PSP" as well 
as a "significant risk of industrial action".
Nowhere in the minutes does the board consider 
the possibility of keeping the body as an executive agency of government.
The Land Registry has a monopoly in the homeowner 
market as all property buyers have to use its 
services. It made a surplus of £98.7m in 2012-13, 
up from £86.1m the previous year, while revenue slipped by 3% to £347m.
A spokesman for the Land Registry confirmed that 
managers had received notification of a strike. 
"We will continue to engage with our trade union 
in order to see if we can find a way to work 
together in order to prevent industrial action. 
However, in the event of a strike we will 
endeavour to ensure that there is minimal 
disruption to the services we offer to our 
professional customers and the public, bearing in 
mind that the majority of our services are conducted online."  
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