The Land Registry is one of those strange government organisations that could quite easily be privatised, should someone be so inclined. And in fact, it came very close - until Vince Cable got cold feet yesterday and decided against it.
This is presumably something to do with the hammering he's had lately over the privatisation of Royal Mail, which was slammed (MT doesn't usually go in for tabloidese but that's really the only word for it) by the business select committee last week. Now Michael Fallon (another minister who came in for a roasting over the Royal Mail thing) says the government has 'concluded we need further consideration before changing the Land Registry's set-up'. Oh well.
You might not expect it, but actually the Land Registry is a largeish jewel in the government's crown: it's 150 years old, employs 4,500 civil servants and has been valued at £1.2bn. It registers 82% of the land in England and Wales - that's about 12.6 million hectares - and holds more than 23.5 million titles. It's also one of the few government organisations that makes a profit: in the last financial year it made £98.8m on revenues of £347.2m.
So you can see why a consultation launched in January has decided it may be 'valuable' to think this through a bit more before anyone does anything.
Fallon was emphatic that this is just a routine government decision, and that selloff or no selloff, the organisation is busy catching up with the 21st century.
'The government's ambition for effective, digital-by-default data services remains an underlying policy objective. The business has already started its digital transformation, which has resulted in the organisation's headcount reducing by more than half over the last 20 years.
'This modernisation will continue irrespective of the need to consider further the Land Registry's commercial model, and will deliver improved services for customers.' Right.