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ODI waves red flag at Land Registry privatisation


Institute says placing the agency in private sector hands would undermine the economic benefits from open data

Privatising the Land Registry could hold back the cause of open data in the public sector and hinder economic growth, the Open Data Institute (ODI) has claimed.

Land_Registry_HQ_CroydonIt has published a draft response to the Government's consultation on the future of the body that registers land ownership in England and Wales, with a warning that it creates a number of risks in restricting the use of public sector data assets.

While the response goes against the Government's proposal, it could have a stronger effect than many protests, coming from the organisation that has been charged with taking the lead on the promotion of open data in government.

It claims that the proposed model for the Land Registry “appears very similar to historic examples of long term outsourcing deals and risks repeating the same mistakes”, and that any private company taking it over is likely to prioritise its own profits above the overall benefit to the economy.

It says that land ownership data has the potential to create more economic value when published as open data, can play a role in other efforts such as fighting corruption, and is essential to the property market operating effectively.

Economic value

The ODI cites research it commissioned from Lateral Economics showing that core government open data assets provide more value to the economy, injecting an additional 0.5%, than when people have to pay for the data. Shifting them to a paid access mode would reduce their value over time.

In addition, the ODI has calculated that the economic growth would generate £1.8 billion to £3.0 billion per year in tax revenue.

Jeni Tennison, deputy chief executive officer and technical director of the ODI, said: “This report highlights the wide economic benefits of a strong, open data infrastructure, and raises concerns about the economic impact when core data assets aren’t available for everyone to access, use and share.

“Its analysis is particularly resonant in the UK, where the Government is now feeling the effects of privatising address data along with Royal Mail, but is simultaneously consulting on the privatisation of the Land Registry.

“Policy making should be led by evidence. We would like to see more economic research that helps inform the decisions governments are making about data.”

The ODI said its response to the consultation is based on three principles:

  • Strong oversight and control of privatisation and outsourcing.
  • The value of Land Registry data will only be fully realised if it is made as open as possible.
  • The Land Registry has to keep pace with new technologies and plan for the web.

It also encouraged people who use Land Registry data to contribute to its draft response document.


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