I was interested to see two articles that referred to privatisation plans of the Coalition government.

Land Registry

IPSAPlans to extend Land Registry’s remit in the run-up to possible privatisation could face a court challenge from an organisation representing private search agents. The Association of Independent Personal Search Agents (IPSA) said last week that it had begun judicial review proceedings to challenge proposals that the Registry take over local land charges services from local authorities.

In the consultation Ed Lester, chief land registrar, says the move ‘would mean that Land Registry would be better placed to serve the changing needs of our customers’.  The consultation coincided with a government proposal that the bulk of Land Registry be turned into a ‘service delivery company’.

Steve Davies, chief executive of IPSA, said that the land charges consultation had set a deadline of eight weeks rather than the government’s guideline minimum of 12. He said that the rush suggested an intention to ‘fatten up’ the registry before a sale.  The Law Society has set up a group to study both consultations. ‘We are taking informal soundings from members of the profession to formulate our response,’ said Jonathan Smithers, chair of the Society’s conveyancing and land law committee.

Read the Law Society Gazette article here.

Our pensions could be privatised

Over the weekend, a story emerged saying that the government is considering saving money by privatising the delivery of the state pension (that is according to Whitehall documents seen by the Guardian newspaper). The paper said that, in an effort to make up billions more in austerity savings, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has initiated a review of how it issues 4.5m pension statements each year and the administration of £100bn in public money to millions of pensioners in the UK and worldwide.

The review, entitled DWP Efficiency Review, runs to more than 80 pages and is marked “restricted”. It also considers how to make cost savings in the way the department handles 750,000 phone calls and the distribution of £98bn in benefits and tax credits. Whitehall’s biggest department is facing an “unprecedented reform challenge”, says the document, which was distributed to senior civil servants in January.

By 2016, work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith will have his operational budget slashed by 34% to £6.3bn from £9bn in 2009-10. Almost £2bn savings will need to be made in the next two financial years.

The Guardian story is here.

It doesn’t sound like privatisation me… more like outsourcing.

A waste of money – £4,560 per family

The Taxpayer’s Alliance (TPA) has accused the government of squandering £120.4bn in one year as the pressure group mounts a “war on waste”.  In its new Bumper Book of Government Waste, the TPA says £1 in every £6 of government spending was wasted in the 2012-13 year – the equivalent of £4,560 per family. The TPA, which campaigns to reform taxes and cut spending, has itemised wastage ranging from £22.5bn overpayments on public sector pay and pensions compared to the private sector and £20.6bn for public sector fraud to £33,333 spent on pot plants by the Welsh government and £2,340 for six pictures of herbs for Heart of England NHS Trust.

It also singled out £8.9m for “the impact of Britain’s broken planning system on increasing the Housing Benefit bill” and £2.7bn for “the cost of contributory benefits for those who don’t need them, excluding the state pension”.

Is there a privatisation solution here? There must be, surely.

Read the story here.

If anything needs to be privatised, maybe it should be English cricket, and whilst we’re at it, perhaps the idea of outsourcing Government itself to the private sector could save a few billion, or could it?

Martin Pollins
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