10 top tips for smooth regulatory returns

CT Partner, Sue Harvey outlines our top 10 tips for smooth regulatory returns.

The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has been noticeably tetchy of late about the accuracy of data returns it receives from English registered providers (RPs). Data quality has been mentioned as a factor in several recent governance downgrades. The RSH’s anxieties arise from two broad concerns.

First, if an RP is sending inaccurate or incomplete data to the regulator, what then is the quality of the data provided to the board and thus the potential impact on the quality of board decisions?
Second, in planning for the resources required for annual stability checks, the RSH depends on data returns being clean and accurate in order to concentrate  its attention on areas where there have been significant year-on-year changes.

Campbell Tickell has supported many housing associations as they prepare their regulatory returns; we have also undertaken investigations when submissions have proved inadequate. Each of these assignments concludes with a ‘lessons learned’ report, and in this article we bring together that knowledge into some top tips to support your next submissions (see table below)

Common pitfalls

Most organisations will have well established routines and experienced staff providing this information in a timely and accurate manner. In doing so they will have developed a good relationship with their regulatory lead, who will be able to anticipate the type of queries that RSH is likely to have. The regulatory lead will provide the relevant supplementary information to support their submissions.

So why does it sometimes go wrong? Why is it often such a stressful period for those charged with submitting the returns? And why is the work so often left to the latest moment? We recognise three category errors in the management of regulatory returns that lie behind these common unpleasant experiences:

  • Thinking of returns as ‘simply’ the by-product of existing data processes, which can therefore be safely left to the end;
  • considering returns as adding little value to the business and so attributing a low priority, junior responsibility and inadequate resources to their collation and submission;
  • under-valuing the importance of returns to the RSH and therefore the potential for additional regulatory engagement and resource if they are incorrect.
         Regulatory returns programme for the remainder of 2020 – 2021
Date of next submission Returns
31st May Statistical Data Return (SDR)
30th June Financial Forecast Return (FFR) *
30th June Disposal Proceeds Fund Annual Return**
30th June Recycled Capital Grant Fund Annual Return**
21st October Quarterly Survey (QS)
3 weeks after each quarter end Quarterly disposals notification
6 months after financial year end Electronic Annual Accounts*
No later than 6 months after financial year end Annual accounts*
No later than 6 months after financial year end Audit management letter*
No later than 6 months after financial year end Fraud report*
22nd January Quarterly Survey (QS)
3 weeks after each quarter end Quarterly disposals notification
3 weeks after relevant disposal Priority disposals notification
*For those providers with 31 March financial year end, adjusted accordingly for others

** Returns to Homes England / Greater London Authority rather than RSH

10 Top Tips

From our experience we have derived 10 top tips for a smooth submission process:

  1. Place ownership (i.e. answerable to the board) for regulatory returns at a senior level within the organisation.
  2. Define responsibilities and make sure that the importance of providing accurate or quality data is understood by all concerned;
  3. Prevent single points of failure by avoiding reliance on one person to complete the returns; inevitably that person will sooner or later be on leave, sick or take up a new job exactly when a return is due;
  4. Ensure careful co-ordination of the multiple sources and departments within the organisation and any external agencies involved;
  5. Agree with the whole team a schedule that provides ample time to chase, collate, check and format all of the required information. Adjust that schedule to reflect the learning from previous years’ experience;
  6. Think about tying in returns procedures with others, for example by linking the reconciliation of stock numbers in the financial statements with the Statistical Data Return. Two purposes will increase the focus on data accuracy and provide additional triangulation;
  7. Produce and update internal guidance notes that set out sources, calculations, timetables, responsibilities and lessons learned; and
  8. Ensure quality control and assurance through all data input and handling processes, and check accuracy as frequently as is practical, not just at the year-end;
  9. Use the comments boxes to provide further information, especially on any material movements from previous returns; and
  10. Protect a clear period prior to submission for careful quality control by someone at a senior level who has not been involved in the collation.

If you have experienced issues in the past in this regard, simple changes along these lines can make a huge difference. These will also benefit your relationship with the regulator in general and in particular help with conversations when it’s In-Depth Assessment time.

To find out more contact Sue Harvey on +44 (0)20 8830 6777  or email sue.harvey@campbelltickell.com

This article is an amended version which originally appeared in CT Brief – Issue 42

10 top tips for smooth regulatory returns

CT Partner, Sue Harvey outlines our top 10 tips for smooth regulatory returns.

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