Overwhelming opposition to George Osborne's plans to privatise state assets, poll finds

The student loan book, Green Investment Bank, Land Registry and air traffic control are all up for sale

Jon Stone
Friday 11 December 2015 12:02
George Osborne confirmed the privatisation plans in his Autumn Statement
George Osborne confirmed the privatisation plans in his Autumn Statement

There is overwhelming opposition to the Government’s plans to privatise key state-owned assets, new polling suggests.

In the Autumn Statement George Osborne confirmed plans to sell off the student loan book, the Land Registry, the Green Investment Bank and National Air Traffic Services.

These assets all currently generate an annual income for the Government, but the Chancellor wants to sell them to private companies.

Selling off the assets would give the UK a one-time lump sum of cash but increase its spending deficit in the long term as it no longer benefited from their annual income.

Research by the pollster Survation found little public support for the policy, however.

64 per cent of people oppose selling the student loan book, compared to 13 per cent who support selling it.

70 per cent oppose the sell-off of the land registry compared to only 16 per cent who support its sale.

60 per cent want to keep air traffic control in public hands compared to 15 per cent who support its sale.

49 per cent want to keep the Green Investment Bank public compared to 20 per cent who want it in private hands.

Announcing the sell-off of the Green Investment Bank in June, Business Secretary Sajid Javid said privatisation would give it access to new capital markets because it would no longer be covered by EU state aid rules.

Last July plans to sell off the Land Registry were thwarted by then business secretary Vince Cable; Mr Osborne resurrected the idea in last month’s autumn statement.

Mr Cable also blocked the sale of the student loan book. Previous sales of installments of the book have been undervalued and the National Union of Students has voiced concerns that loan terms could be changed as part of sell-off.

The UK only part-owns its air traffic control system, which was part-privatised in 1998. The Government however retained a 49 per cent “golden share” over the strategic asset under the plan, championed by Gordon Brown, who was chancellor at the time.

The polling by Survation was conducted for the We Own It campaign group between 2 and 8 of December 2015.

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