An update on our work and a breakdown of societies on the register.
We provide an overview of the mutuals registration function, our strategy, and details of developments for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023. We also give some statistical information on our work and the number of societies on the register.
Societies on the register include societies registered under:
- Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014
- Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969
- Credit Unions Act 1979
- The Credit Unions (Northern Ireland) Order 1985
- Friendly Societies Act 1974
- Friendly Societies Act 1992
- Building Societies Act 1986
Our website has more detail on our role and responsibilities.
Delivering our strategy
Last year we set out our strategy to maintain public confidence in the different legal structures mutual societies can use. We said we would do this by:
- operating a system of oversight to assess and drive compliance
- supporting the mutual society legal structures, and acting to tackle harm
- helping the public, societies, and their members understand the nature of our role
During this period, we’ve delivered on this strategy by focusing on data, digital platforms, compliance, and our engagement with societies. We set out some of the ways we’ve done this.
We have asked societies to provide a ‘Standard Industrial Classification (SIC)’ code in their annual returns. This enables analysis of economic activity across the different legal entities in the UK. We have now mapped all societies to a SIC code and made this data visible for each society on the Mutuals Public Register. The data appears in both the Overview tab for each society, and in the register extract.
We have mapped all societies to a new reporting classification. We’ve included a summary of this mapping in statistical information below, with further details available on the glossary of the Mutuals Public Register. We’ve created this category to provide a helpful level of detail, based on the characteristics of the societies within those categories.
The number of registered users on the Mutuals Society Portal has increased by 23% to 9,876.
The digitisation of paper files has continued, with an additional 14,779 files added to the Mutuals Public Register. The files of 90% of currently registered societies are now fully digitised.
To make it easier to find documents on the Mutuals Public Register, we have amended the Documents tab for societies to allow you to filter by document type. We have also now added a status to show whether the paper file of a society has been fully digitised. This saves you needing to submit a request to us to check this.
During this year we consulted via CP22/26 on moving our guidance for co-operative and community benefit societies from a static PDF to the FCA Handbook. In February 2023, our guidance moved to the Handbook. This move makes the guidance more accessible and capable of future update.
Following engagement with the sector we have reviewed and refreshed the content on our website relating to mutual societies. We have made more resources available to societies and provide clear information to society members and the public more generally.
The work on our website also included the creation of a page and process for individuals to report concerns about mutual societies.
Societies must continue to meet conditions for registration and one of those is that co-operative societies must be bona fide co-operatives. Section 4 of our guidance sets out how we approach that test. We wrote to the larger retail consumer co-operatives with a voluntary questionnaire focusing on member economic participation and member democratic control. We were pleased that societies took the opportunity to proactively engage in that work and gave us useful information. We collated those results and shared them with the participants.
Throughout the year we have met regularly with the sponsoring bodies supporting societies. This has included 2 roundtable events, and regular individual meetings.
In June 2022, we attended and spoke at the Co-operative Congress, hosted by Co-operatives UK. This gave us the opportunity to update delegates on our strategy and listen to suggestions for a future update to our guidance for co-operative societies.
In February 2023, we attended the UK Society for Co-operative Studies conference, focused on consumer co-operation, and attended the Association of British Credit Unions Limited (ABCUL) conference in March. This sits alongside regular engagement with sponsoring bodies, solicitors working with societies, and other registrars and regulators in the UK and internationally.
To help newly registered societies understand and meet the legislative requirements, we have started writing to societies on the anniversary of their registration with a summary of information on action they need to take in the months that follow.
We routinely review annual returns and accounts submitted to us each year. Additionally, we have this year carried out a review of a sample of accounts (419 accounts) and collated an analysis of compliance against the requirements of the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014. We have shared that analysis with the accounting and audit professional bodies and have welcomed their engagement in taking steps to help drive compliance. This work will continue into the next financial year.
Over the year we have written to societies with outstanding annual returns and accounts. We are in the process of issuing notices of intended cancellation to non-compliant societies. We anticipate seeing the number of cancellations increase in the next financial year should returns remain outstanding.
Use of powers
On 28 September 2022, we cancelled the registration of Lower Park Farm Co-operative Limited, registration number 4043. This followed notice given by us on 19 April 2022 of our intention to cancel the registration of the society under Condition D in section 5 of the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 – being that it appeared to us that the society was not a bona fide co-operative. The society opted to convert to a company. You can view further details on the Mutuals Public Register.
We regularly engage with societies to bring about compliance. This often does not involve the use of a statutory power. Instead, societies voluntarily take action to bring themselves into compliance. In 2022-23, we contacted 41 societies on matters of compliance (compared to a figure of 96 in 2021-22).
We publish separately details of prosecution and cancellation for non-submission of annual returns and accounts.
Societies registered as of 31 March 2023
|Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014||8412|
|Friendly Societies Act 1974||911|
|Credit Unions Act 1979||296|
|Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969||239|
|The Credit Unions (Northern Ireland) Order 1985||63|
|Building Societies Act 1986||43|
|Friendly Societies Act 1992||27|
|Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014:|
|Community Benefit Society||1391|
*This refers to societies registered before the commencement of the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 on 1 August 2014, referred to in legislation as a ’pre-commencement society’.
|Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969:|
|Community Benefit Society||5|
**This refers to societies registered before the commencement of section 8 of the Credit Unions and Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 on 6 April 2018, referred to in legislation as a 'pre-2016 Act society'.
|Friendly Societies Act 1974:|
|Specially authorised society||52|
|Working men's club||729|
Societies by reporting classification
Earlier in the report we introduced the new reporting classifications. The breakdown of all still registered societies by reporting classification on 31 March 2023 is:
|Advocacy and campaigning||66|
|Allotment and gardening||273|
|Art, culture and education||280|
|Associations and networks||58|
|Community Land Trusts||292|
|Energy and environment||361|
|Health and social care||103|
|Leisure and recreation facilities||107|
|Manufacturing and services||68|
|Technology and communications||63|
|Welfare and support||45|
The glossary on the Mutuals Public Register provides a description of each category.
Changes during the year
Throughout the year, we registered 233 new societies and deregistered 223 societies.
|Society type||Great Britain||Northern Ireland||Total|
|Community Benefit Societies||143||3||146|
Of the new registrations, 29 followed a company converting to a society.
|Conversion from a working men’s club under the Friendly Societies Act 1974 to a Co-operative or Community Benefit Society||20|
|Conversion of a society to a company||6|
|Transfer of engagements, dissolution or liquidation||79|
|Cancelled at own request||66|
|Cancelled at our instigation||52|
Summary of registration and deregistration over previous years:
We determined 3,012 applications during the year. This represents 3.6% reduction in applications on the previous year.
In our voluntary service standard, we said that we would determine at least 90% of complete applications within 15 working days. During this period, we determined 92.0% of complete applications within 15 working days.
Determination times vary depending on factors including the volume of submissions, quality of information provided in the application, the complexity of the submission, and the issues and concerns identified during our registration assessment. For example, assessing a free-draft complete amendment of rules takes significantly longer than assessing a short partial amendment of rules.
As well as determining applications, the Mutuals function also responds to queries from public facing inboxes, provides a public records function, processes annual returns and accounts, and takes action to tackle non-compliance – including the use of powers.
Voluntary service standards over previous years are:
Read more about the mutuals registration function.