STAFF at Weymouth Land Registry are fearing for their jobs after plans were announced to move the service towards privatisation.

Andy Woodgate, chairman of the local branch of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), said the 200 staff who work at the Granby Industrial Estate site have had their lives ‘put on hold’.

A consultation process has begun to discuss options on how the 150-year-old service should be run, including turning it into a government company (GovCo).

Mr Woodgate said: “There is always a risk of office closures and job cuts in a situation like this.

“The staff will not be certain of their long-term future while there is this huge question mark over whether they will remain as civil servants.”

He added that the Land Registry is also subject to discussions over possible restructuring of the service.

“There are two parts to this. The ownership of the organisation and the proposals put forward for becoming a GovCo or moving towards privatisation are clearly unsettling and a cause for concern about how the organisation operates as a public body.

“In addition the future structure of the organisation is in question at the moment and an announcement on that has been delayed while this consultation takes place.”

He added: “Staff are unsettled and jittery about their long-term future in Weymouth.”

One worker who did not want to be named, said: “The atmosphere is terrible. People are genuinely worried about the future. It is a close-knit community at the Land Registry and it is an important part of the Weymouth economy.

“We all know times are tough but this could have devastating consequences.”

The proposals were unveiled by Business Minister Michael Fallon to create a new company, still subject to government oversight, which would be responsible for delivering the services.

The Land Registry is responsible for keeping and maintaining details of the ownership of land and property in England and Wales.

Mr Fallon said: “Land Registry continues to be a cornerstone of property ownership and undertakes a range of functions and responsibilities, which are critical to the property market.

“Giving Land Registry more flexibility to operate in the modern world will enable them to become a leader in digitising land and property services and support economic growth in the wider economy.

“We welcome views from all interested stakeholders to help us shape the future of land registration services.”

Chief Land Registrar and Chief Executive of Land Registry Ed Lester said the proposals have been designed to make the service more efficient and take it into the digital age.

He added: “Our business strategy is ambitious but achievable as we aim to improve land registration services and play a wider role in the property market.“The strategy was created around customer needs, the changing face of the property market and our ambition to become a leader in digital land registration services.

“By focusing on our customer needs, we will continue to improve our service delivery and make the process of dealing in land and property more efficient.”

The consultation will run for eight weeks and closes on March 20.