MORE than 160 Land Registry staff walked out on strike over fears about job cuts and privatisation.

Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union members formed a picket line at the gates to the building on the Granby Industrial Estate, this morning.

Union members held large red placards which read: 'Keep Land Registry Public.'

Motorists tooted their horns and waved in support of the strike action.

Many union members did not take part in the picket, which was in operation from 6.30am-9.30am, but chose to stay away as part of the strike action. The 48-hour strike will continue tomorrow with a further picket line.

Union staff at the Granby branch joined strike action by more than 3,000 union members in 14 locations in England and Wales.

The PCS called the strike over fears of privatisation and job cuts. A consultation on the future of the service closed on March 20 but union bosses say they have been told no decision has been reached yet.

Options up for consultation include moving it from the civil service to a 'government owned company', into a joint venture with a private company or to maintain it in public ownership.

Union representatives said that despite repeated requests, Land Registry bosses have refused to rule out the possibility of compulsory redundancies and office closures.

Chairman of the PCS branch at Weymouth Land Registry Andy Woodgate said they were very pleased with the strike turn out.

The Land Registry has 180 PCS members and Mr Woodgate said that more than 90 percent had joined in the action. There are a total of 230 staff at the Land Registry.

Staff will not be paid for the two days they are on strike.

Mr Woodgate said staff were concerned about privatisation and job cuts and the fact there had been no assurances given about avoiding compulsory redundancies.

He said their branch had seen a dozen new members join after strike action was announced as staff wanted to show their protest and were not prepared to stand back and let things happen.

He said: “The turn out shows the strength of feeling.”

He added: “We have run out of patience now. The plans are moving afoot so quickly we need to make a stand now.”