The government faced criticism last night after plans to sell off the Land Registry were confirmed.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid has launched a consultation document setting out options for privatising the body, which holds the titles for most of England and Wales’s land.
City A.M. understands buyout firm Advent International and others are considering bids for the agency, which has previously been valued at £1.2bn.
Launching the consultation yesterday, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills said a sale would "allow government to pay down debt, or enable other investment for the benefit of taxpayers".
It added: "It is expected that a move into the private sector would also allow Land Registry to become even more efficient and effective as part of its transformation programme."
It emerged last November that the government had asked investment bank Rothschild to consider options for selling Land Registry. Ministers had already considered privatising part of the Land Registry, but in the coalition government former business secretary Vince Cable argued against a sell-off.
And the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has spoken out against privatisation, as it did two years ago when it was last considered.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We exposed the emptiness of the government's case last time and will do again to put a stop to this plan that is being driven by short-term political choice, not economic necessity."
And Angela Eagle, Labour’s shadow business secretary, said: “This short-term privatisation will have long-term consequences; it could undermine confidence in Land Registry data, jeopardise the service to homebuyers, and erode conditions for their staff. The Government are privatising the profits of the Land Registry – which made a surplus of £100m in 2012/13 – whilst retaining the risk."