Mutual societies registration function: 2023-24

Corporate documents Published: 25/05/2023 Last updated: 22/05/2024

An update on our work and a breakdown of societies on the mutuals public register.

This update includes a look at the registration function, the latest on our mutuals strategy and details of what has been happening from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024.

We also delve into the statistics – including looking at how many societies are 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

Read more on our role and responsibilities.

Delivering our mutuals strategy

In 2022, we reported that we had reviewed our strategy to maintain public confidence in the different legal structures mutual societies can use. In that year we also stated that over the next 3 years 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

In 2023/24, we’ve continued to deliver 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 below.

Data and digital platforms

We maintain the Mutuals Public Register and the Mutuals Society Portal. 

The Portal is a system for you to submit applications and returns to us.

More people are using the Portal. The number of users increased by 18% in the year to the end of March 2024. Some 67% of societies now use it.

Societies told us suppliers often ask for confirmation of their registration status. In June 2023, we added a way for societies to get this automatically via the Portal.

We also extended the range of forms available through the Portal and improved its usability. This includes broadening the range of forms available for co-operative and community benefit societies registered in Northern Ireland.

Submitting annual returns 

All societies can now submit annual returns and accounts through the Mutuals Society Portal.

As a result of these changes, we closed the annual returns email address on 31 March 2024. Returns for the Mutuals Public Register should now be submitted through the Portal.

We told societies about these changes by post.


Stakeholders and events

We met with the sponsoring bodies supporting societies, including through 2 roundtable events.

We attended the:

  • International Co-operative Alliance European Research Conference (June 2023)
  • Co-operatives UK Practitioners Forum (November 2023)
  • Swoboda Research Centre Credit Union Conference (November 2023)
  • UK Society for Co-operative Studies conference, focusing on the role of secondary co-operatives (March 2024)

This sits alongside regular engagement with:

  • solicitors working with societies
  • other registrars and regulators including Companies House and the Community Interest Company Regulator

We sent a number of emails covering recent changes and other information.

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Throughout the year we have engaged with the Law Commission on its reviews of the:

We also attended a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Mutuals on this topic on 28 February 2024.  

The Co-operatives, Mutuals and Friendly Societies Act 2023 was made law on 29 June 2023. This Act creates a framework for an ‘asset lock’, to prevent the distribution of surplus capital. Secondary legislation needs to be made before societies can use its provisions.

We have also engaged with the Government and the sector on proposed amendments to the Building Societies Act 1986, including the Building Societies Act 1986 (Amendment) Bill.

Changes for credit unions 

This year saw changes to credit union legislation in Great Britain.  

Changes were made through the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023. We discussed these changes with credit unions and their trade bodies. 

Changes include the ability for these credit unions to add a new optional object to expand the range of products and services they offer.  

Since these changes came into force on 29 August 2023, we have registered rule amendments for 6 credit unions adding this optional object.  


Reported concerns

Last year, we highlighted a new process for people to report a concern about a mutual society.

This year we received 84 reports, covering 67 societies. Either as a response to concerns raised with us, or from issues identified by us, we contacted 74 societies individually on points of legislative compliance, distinct from the proactive engagement below.

What we’re doing: proactive engagement

We have looked at how societies refer to their registration status with us.

We have reviewed more than 3,200 society websites. Checks have included whether a society:

  • is displaying its registered name
  • refers to itself as being ‘regulated’ or ‘authorised’ by us, rather than ‘registered’ (where it is not also authorised under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000)

We wrote to 29 societies about statements on their websites relating to registration status.

We asked a further 65 societies to check and make sure their full registered name appears on their website.

Earlier in the year, following a review, we also contacted 4 societies based on information appearing in documents promoting unregulated ‘community shares’.

As part of our proactive engagement, we also wrote to the 15 first-class county professional cricket clubs registered as co-operatives under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014.

We saw 4 were using rules that were not registered by us (so not legally effective). These societies have now taken action to address this.

We shared the findings of this work with the clubs and the England and Wales Cricket Board.

From this, we noted how important the role of the society secretary is. We have published information for society secretaries on our website.

Use of our powers

As outlined in our 2022/23 update, we have continued to do work in relation to societies with outstanding annual returns and accounts.

In 2023 (calendar year), we contacted 636 societies about outstanding returns. We subsequently cancelled the registration of 485 societies during that year.

In financial year 2023/24, we used our power under section 143 of the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 to make public observation on certain accounts.

In the interests of transparency, we published the accounts on the Mutuals Public Register, prefaced with the text:

‘We are aware these accounts have been signed by Mr Peter Sperling, through his firm ‘Turnbull Associates’. Despite purporting to sign accounts as a fully qualified auditor, Mr Sperling did not, at the relevant time, hold all the necessary authorisations from the ICAEW to enable him to sign audit reports. This was not a matter the society was aware of.

‘Mr Sperling was subject to disciplinary hearing by the Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), including on 18 September 2019 (reference 046232/MATT)[...]’ (View the disciplinary order.)

‘We therefore have concluded that the actions of Peter Sperling have resulted in these accounts not meeting the requirements of the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014.’

We added this text as a covering note on the published annual returns and accounts for 31 societies.  


Complaints about the delivery of the mutuals registration function are covered by our complaints scheme.

During this year there were no complaints subject to a decision of the Complaints Commissioner. 

In numbers

Societies registered as of 31 March 2024

Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 8136
Friendly Societies Act 1974 846
Credit Unions Act 1979 284
Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 229
The Credit Unions (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 62
Building Societies Act 1986 43
Friendly Societies Act 1992 27
Total 9626

Society types

Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014
Registered society* 5974
Co-operative society 646
Community benefit society 1516
Total 8136

*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
Registered society** 129
Credit union 82
Co-operative society 12
Community benefit society 6
Total 229

**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
Benevolent society 22
Friendly society 103
Specially authorised society 51
Working men's club 670
Total 846

Societies by reporting classification


Classification Number of societies
Advocacy and campaigning 61
Agriculture 351
Allotment and gardening 296
Art, culture and education 276
Associations and networks 55
Community enterprise 167
Community land trusts 292
Community pubs 242
Community shops 301
Energy and environment 363
Financial services 647
Fishing 50
Health and social care 91
Housing 2185
Leisure and recreation facilities 106
Manufacturing and services 54
Produce markets 89
Professional services 74
Retail societies 121
Social clubs 2939
Sports clubs 518
Supporters' trusts 165
Technology and communications 57
Transport 82
Welfare and support 44

The glossary on the Mutuals Public Register describes each category. 

Changes during the year

Throughout the year, we registered 273 new societies and deregistered 634 societies.   

New registrations  

Society type Great Britain Northern Ireland Total
Community benefit societies 173 1 174
Co-operative societies 98 1 99

Of the new registrations, 28 followed a company converting to a society.   


Deregistration reason Number
Conversion from a working men’s club under the Friendly Societies Act 1974 to a co-operative or community benefit society 19
Conversion of a society to a company 11
Transfer of engagements, dissolution or liquidation 56
Cancelled at own request 82
Cancelled at our instigation 466

Registration and deregistration over previous years

Year New registration Deregistration
2017/18 285 423
2018/19 272 339
2019/20 304 251
2020/21 222 114
2021/22 288 142
2022/23 233 223
2023/24 273 634

This chart shows the overall change in number of societies on the register, based on registrations and deregistrations.

In 2023/24, there were 361 fewer societies on the register in total.


Data table



We made decisions on 3,043 applications during 2023/4. This represents a 1% increase in applications on the previous year. 

We set a voluntary service standard to make a decision on at least 90% of complete applications within 15 working days. 

This chart shows how we performed against our voluntary target to determine 90% of complete applications within 15 working days.

In 2023/24, we exceeded this goal, responding to 97.5% applications in the timeframe.


Data table


Other activities

The mutuals registration function also:

  • responds to queries
  • provides a public records function
  • processes annual returns and accounts
  • takes action to tackle non-compliance – including the use of powers  

Read more about the mutuals registration function.