CoPSO denied access to Government CON29 report

10 December 2019

In March of 2019, the Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO) issued a Freedom of Information (FoI) Request to MHCLG for release of a Report produced by Mike Westcott Rudd from the Land Registry in respect of the future of the CON29 search. The request was denied by MHCLG and CoPSO then appealed the decision which was upheld internally by MHCLG. CoPSO then complained to the Information Commissioner whose office conducted an investigation into the matter and has now upheld MHCLG’s decision not to release the Report.

It appears from the ruling that MHCLG have changed their position in respect of this Report. Originally industry was advised that the Report was being commissioned outside the auspices of the Land Registry, although being produced by one of its employees, whereas it is now clear that the Report emanated from the Land Registry itself.

James Sherwood-Rogers, Chairman of CoPSO said ‘the way the production of this Report has been conducted, and the apparent secrecy attached to it, is disturbing. That Government should be developing policy off the back of input from one of its own departments that may have a vested interest in the future of the CON29, and potentially at the expense of the private sector, begs serious questions. By denying access to the Report MHCLG is serving to heighten concerns as to the Report’s contents.’

The ICO decision states that the Report is being used to formulate Government policy and this seemingly in isolation from the private sector. Their decision seems to indicate that the timing of the CoPSO FoI may have provided MHCLG with grounds for denying access to the contents of the Report – in other words something of a technicality. As CoPSO and its members have not been invited by MHCLG to participate in policy formulation at any stage either before the Report’s production or since, the matter cannot be allowed to rest. CoPSO will consider what further action to take which may include referral to the First Tier Tribunal and the submission of further FoIs to Government.

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