Welcome to our annual report and accounts for 2022/23.
This year we focused our work on our priorities around giving tenants a strong voice, the quality and safety of homes, discharge of homelessness duties, and rent affordability and supporting landlords. We worked with stakeholders to provide landlords with advice on damp and mould and we published thematic reviews on rents and homelessness.
e also published our National Report on the Charter and findings from our research with our National Panel of Tenants and Service Users.
We engaged with landlords as set out in the plans we published in March 2022 and updated throughout the year. We carried out a comprehensive regulatory risk assessment of social landlords and published the outcome in engagement plans in March 2023. For Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), we assessed 131 as compliant and 5 as working towards compliance. At 31 March 2023, we were not using our statutory powers to intervene in any landlords.
Moving into 2023/24 social landlords are faced with cost inflation, higher interest rates, and increasing requirements on quality of homes. This is all combined with huge demand for support from tenants who are facing genuine financial hardship, and there is pressure to keep rents as affordable as possible. We are seeing acute issues around homelessness, and temporary accommodation in particular. The year ahead is likely to remain unpredictable, volatile and difficult.
We recognise that the current context means that social landlords are likely to have to prioritise their attention and resources on the most critical and immediate issues, including tackling the acute problems in homelessness, alleviating fuel poverty and maintaining tenant safety. We are working with our stakeholders to understand what achievable priorities at a sustainable pace look like for social housing for the next year.
At the start of 2023/24 we published a new strategy detailing our regulatory priorities including homelessness, quality of homes, affordability and value for money. In 2023/24 we will carry out a periodic review of our Regulatory Framework as it is time to ensure that it remains up to date and effective. We will also respond to the Scottish Government’s public service reform agenda.
We would like to thank our resilient and professional staff team, Board members and all the tenants, service users and stakeholders who have worked with us. We are grateful to Bob Gil who retired at the end of March 2023 having completed his second term with SHR Board. We welcomed the appointment of Andrew Watson from our Board to become our Deputy Chair. In 2023 we look forward to welcoming new staff, as we recruit to ensure we have the resources to continue to regulate effectively. We are also pleased that Scottish Ministers have reappointed Ewan Fraser, Colin Stewart and Helen Trouten Torres to our Board for a second term.
We would like to pay tribute to the hard work of all those who volunteer and work in social housing in Scotland. Together, they are supporting some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland.
George Walker, Chair and Michael Cameron, Chief Executive
Who we are and what we do
Who we are
We are the independent regulator of social landlords in Scotland. Social landlords are made up of registered social landlords (RSLs) – housing associations and co-operatives – and local authorities (LAs) that provide housing and homelessness services. Our organisational structure is set out in the Directors’ Report within the Accountability Report.
What we do
We regulate to safeguard and promote the interests of current and future tenants of social landlords, people who are or may become homeless, and people who use housing services provided by RSLs and LAs.
We regulate social landlords by:
- keeping a register of social landlords and making this available for the public – all landlords on the register need to meet regulatory requirements;
- monitoring, assessing and reporting on how well social landlords are run and how they manage their money – we call this governance and financial management; and
- taking action, where we need to, to protect the interests of tenants and other service users.
We do this in a way that:
- is proportionate, accountable and transparent - this means we are open about how we work and we take responsibility for our decisions;
- is targeted – this means we only take action where it is needed;
- encourages treating people fairly and promotes equal opportunities; and
- is consistent with the Scottish Regulators’ Strategic Code of Practice.
Overview – Our work performance & achievements
This is a summary of our work during the year set out under the priorities we set out in our 202/23 Strategy. Further detail on all of this work can be found in section four of our annual report – performance analysis.
We included tenants and service users in our work and we worked with our stakeholders by:
- meeting with our Regional Network SHR Liaison Group;
- carrying out research with our National Panel of Tenants and Service Users;
- working with our new group of tenant advisors;
- publishing a refreshed strategy and video on how we include tenants and service users in our work;
- meeting homelessness advice bodies;
- continuing our work with the Scottish Social Housing Resilience Group;
- meeting with our forum of Systemically Important RSLs;
- forming two new forums to hear from groups of urban and rural & islands RSLs;
- meeting with lenders and investors to the sector; and
- participating in a range of Scottish Government’s workgroups and task and finish groups with our stakeholders.
We focused on the quality of the homes social landlords provide and with that the safety of tenants and residents, including the standards of Gypsy/Traveller sites by:
- making tenant and resident safety, including gas safety, electrical testing and fire safety a key aspect of our risk assessment;
- meeting with Gypsy/Travellers representatives to discuss their priorities around standards;
- highlighting the importance of proactive systems and approaches to mould and damp to landlords and supporting sector work around briefings and advice;
- publishing recommended practice on integrated asset management;
- updating our factsheets on making complaints about a regulated body and reporting Significant Performance Failures; and
- engaging with Scottish Government around its review of Energy Efficiency Standards for Social Housing.
We prioritise how Landlords’ discharge their duties to people who are or have experienced homelessness, with a particular focus on duties to provide temporary and settled accommodation by:
- engaging with all local authorities on delivery of services and work with RSL partners;
- publishing a thematic review of homelessness services in Scotland; and
- calling for Scottish Government to consider what further urgent measures it can take to support councils to respond to the challenges in delivering services for people who are homeless.
We continued to support and review Landlords’ recovery from the pandemic including handling of any backlogs in housing services by publishing:
- the final Covid dashboard for the Scottish Social Housing Resilience Group;
- our national report on social landlords’ performance against the standards and outcomes of the Scottish Social Housing Charter;
- a suite of performance information including individual landlord reports, comparison tool and all the statistical information landlords provide under the Charter; and
- updated advisory guidance for landlords on surveying their tenants and service users.
We focused on rent affordability and value for money by:
- publishing a thematic review of rent increases by social landlords;
- writing to landlords on the developing policy position on rent increases and to advise them on tenant consultations;
- participating in the Scottish Government’s emergency legislation task & finish group; and
- gathering and publishing information on planned rent increases from April 2023.
We continued to prioritise Governance & financial health in RSLs with a focus on business planning by:
- publishing advisory guidance on conducting reviews of compliance with Regulatory Standards of Governance and Financial Health;
- supporting landlords with guidance on Annual Assurance Statement preparation;
- preparing for forthcoming visits to learn more about how landlords prepare their Annual Assurance Statements;
- publishing all submitted annual assurance statements;
- supporting landlords seeking to register or deregister;
- publishing our analysis of RSL annual loan portfolio returns, an overview of aggregate financial forecasts and business plans and our annual analysis of RSL Audited Financial Statement returns;
- engaging with social landlords as set out in our engagement plans for 2022/23;
- carrying out an regulatory risk assessment of every RSL and local authority and publishing updated engagement plans to reflect our plans for 2023/24;
- reporting on our previous intervention at Fairfield Housing Association;
- completing a review of an RSL’s approach to treasury management; and
- considering whistleblowing concerns raised with us.
We demonstrated we were an effective public body by:
- managing risks to our objectives and priorities and adjusting our workplans to mitigate and prioritise;
- continuing to support our staff team to work effectively in our office spaces and at home;
- operating within our budget;
- publishing and using research on communications with our stakeholders to inform our work;
- publishing our annual statement of compliance with the Public Sector Reform Act;
- maintaining our Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation;
- submitting a report on our progress towards climate change targets and setting dates for targets to reduce carbon emissions;
- responding in line with our corporate targets and the statutory targets for Freedom of Information and Subject Access requests;
- keeping our stakeholders up to date through our website, our twitter account - @shrnews and our SHR update ezine;
- giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee;
- taking part in the Civil Service People Survey;
- publishing an updated Equalities Statement; and
- achieving substantial assurance from our internal auditor and an unqualified audit opinion from our external audit.
This section of the annual report provides further detail to that covered in the overview around our work and performance during 2022/23 and is aligned to our Strategy for 2022/23, which we published in April 2022. This set out our vision for:
Well-run social landlords delivering what tenants, people who are homeless, Gypsy/Travellers and others who use social housing services need and want, and at a price they can afford to pay.
It also laid out our priorities for the year including:
- the quality of the homes social landlords provide and with that the safety of tenants and residents, including the standards of Gypsy/Traveller sites;
- landlords’ discharge of their duties to people who are or have experienced homelessness, with a particular focus on duties to provide temporary and settled accommodation;
- landlords’ recovery from the pandemic including handling of any backlogs in housing services;
- rent affordability and value for money;
- governance & financial health in RSLs with a focus on business planning; and
- being an effective public body.
In the Strategy we committed to achieve our objective & priorities, which have been informed by tenants and other stakeholders by:
- promoting a strong tenant voice;
- supporting landlords to do the right things for their tenants, people who are homeless and other service users; and
- taking effective, proportionate action where we need to protect tenants and others
We also recognise that our work will help to maintain lenders’ and funders’ confidence in social housing and contribute to the Scottish Government’s National Outcomes.
Including tenants and service users in our work
Including tenants and other service users in our work is very important to us. In March 2023 we published a refreshed strategy setting out how we do this. In this we set out our key objectives to:
- understand tenants’ and service users’ priorities and views;
- involve tenants and other service users in our regulation; and
- communicate with tenants and service users about our work.
We are fortunate to also have some Board members, appointed by Scottish Ministers, who are tenants and provide a valuable perspective to our work.
The Regional Network SHR Liaison Group continues to be an important way for us to have meaningful dialogue directly with tenants. We met with the group four times during 2022/23. Some of our Board members attended these meeting to hear directly from tenants. At these meetings we discussed both our approach and the work going on throughout the four regions. We use this engagement to inform our approach to regulation. Read the minutes of the meetings.
The Regional Network SHR Liaison Group said “Regular engagement with SHR via the Regional Network SHR Liaison Group is a very useful forum for exchanging information on work and priorities. We appreciate direct access to SHR staff and that SHR Board members also attend at times to hear directly from us.”
We also work with a National Panel of tenants and service users. It is one of the ways we find out what matters most to them and helps us focus. During 2022 we retendered management of the panel. Engage Scotland manages the National Panel on our behalf and began a refresh of membership in later 2022/23. The National Panel has around 450 tenants and service users.
In August 2022 we published the most recent research with the National Panel, which highlighted some tenants were struggling to manage their housing costs and wider finances. Panel members also fed back through the survey on a range of issues relating to landlords’ key attributes, accessibility and responsiveness.
Iain Muirhead, the Regulator’s Director of Digital and Business Support, said: “Once again, the National Panel report has highlighted the very real and continuing challenges being faced by tenants and their families in the current difficult economic context. This is even more sobering given that the survey work took place last year before the cost of living crisis started to escalate to its current level. This report helps to illustrate the critical and continued importance of the work landlords can do to support their tenants, including those who are struggling financially.”
Our research work with the refreshed National Panel is ongoing and we will seek to publish the research findings later in 2023.
If you would like to join the National Panel please contact Engage Scotland Tel: 0800 433 7212 Email: email@example.com
In May we appointed a refreshed group of 12 voluntary tenant advisors who are tenants of RSLs or local authorities to participate in our work. We have completed induction and equalities training with them and will ask them to carry out specific pieces of work for us and help us keep tenants views at the heart of our work. During 2022/23 they provided feedback on our refresh of our Equalities Statement and started work on a review of the availability of information on landlords’ websites about their tenant participation strategies.
Working with our stakeholders
We appreciate being able to work closely and engage with all our stakeholders. It is important for us to hear from stakeholders, be able to share our plans with them, influence and work with them. This engagement includes our Board and we are very grateful to the stakeholders who have met directly with our Board to discuss challenges, priorities and future plans.
During the year we established and hosted meeting of two new forums for RSLs; one for landlords working in rural areas and the islands, and one for landlords working in urban areas. These new groups help us to have regular, structured and open conversations about topical issues and developments in our regulatory approach and help us better understand the perspective of those we regulate. We also restarted our group meetings with all Systemically Important RSLs. Read more about them here.
During 2022/223 we participated alongside many stakeholders in the Scottish Social Housing Resilience Group, the Housing to 2040 Strategic Board, the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH) Review Group and a range of Scottish Government working groups/task and finish groups on homelessness, finance and rents.
We are very pleased to also make ourselves available to larger groups of stakeholders about our work. During 2022/23 we spoke at:
- Tenant Information Service (TIS) Rent Setting and Affordability Conference in September 2022
- Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA’s) Scottish Rural & Islands Conference in October 2022
- Scottish Housing Network’s (SHN) Annual Gathering in October 2022
- SFHA’s Finance Conference in November 2022
- SFHA Highlands and Islands Liaison Group in March 2023
- Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Housing Festivals in May 2022 and March 2023.
Our Strategic Priorities
1. The quality of the homes social landlords provide and with that the safety of tenants and residents, including the standards of Gypsy/Travellers sites
Ensuring that tenants live in warm, safe and dry homes is at the heart of what we do and therefore a key element of our annual risk assessment.
In November 2022 we set out the risks that we focused on during our annual regulatory risk assessment of all social landlords. This includes stock quality as well as tenant and resident safety, including how landlords ensure homes are meeting the Scottish Housing Quality Standard and their statutory obligations on health and safety. Given the importance of gas safety we reviewed Charter returns and contacted landlords to get further assurance in this area in July 2022. We also considered the extent to which landlords were complying with new requirements in relation to electrical safety testing and the installation of linked heat and smoke detectors and engaged with some landlords about their plans to meet these requirements.
We met with Gyspy/Travellers representatives to hear about their priorities around site standards and discussed plans for potential thematic work when our resources allowed.
Following the publication of the coroner’s report into the very tragic death of Awaab Ishak who died of a respiratory condition caused by mould in his home, we wrote to all social landlords in December 2022. We highlighted the full coroner’s report, housing standards and also to ask governing bodies and committees to consider the systems that they have in place to ensure that their tenants’ homes are not affected and they have proactive systems to identify and deal with any reported cases of mould and damp timeously.
In February 2023 we worked with SFHA, Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO) and CIH to support a programme of events and advice to help frontline staff through to board members to take a proactive approach to damp or mould in social homes. This included the publication of a briefing note to help landlords ensure they deal with damp and mould problems promptly and effectively. The briefing recognises that issues are often multi-layered and solutions can include tackling issues with the property and supporting tenants. We, along with CIH, SFHA and ALACHO continued to highlight the importance of this at the CIH Housing Festival in March 2023.
Helen Shaw, SHR Director of Regulation, said: “Ensuring tenants are safe and warm in their homes is a critical priority for all social landlords, and we hope that this advice will help support them to keep their tenants’ homes free from mould and damp and that they are able to respond to any reported cases of mould and dampness quickly and effectively.”
Callum Chomczuk, national director of CIH Scotland said
"I am delighted to work with ALACHO, SFHA and the SHR on developing this advice for practitioners working in the social sector. The death of Awaab Ishak highlighted to everyone working in the sector how important it is to take instances of damp and mould seriously. This guidance will further help landlords and practitioners take the steps required to address the underlying cause.”
Ensuring their assets – tenants' homes – are in good condition, sustainable and meet the needs of tenants is a key priority for social landlords. Doing so can also help landlords to protect the interests of current and future tenants.
We know that landlords are carefully considering the impact of various challenges including the cost crisis and the requirements arising from energy efficiency and net zero targets on their investment plans and their asset management strategy. In February 2023 we published updated recommended practice to support social landlords to review and develop their approach to integrated asset management.
We hope that the principles in this will help support social landlords to balance investment in their homes while keeping tenants’ rents affordable.
A Significant Performance Failure is a serious concern about a landlord which significantly affects a number of tenants. In April 2022, we published updated information for tenants and landlords to explain how to contact us about this and to explain how we will handle a report about a Significant Performance Failure. We also updated our factsheet on how to make a complaint about a regulated body.
In addition to the factsheets a video on how to raise concerns about social landlords is available on our website.
The Scottish Government undertook a review of the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH) and is working towards reporting on this later in 2023. We therefore paused our data collection of the EESSH indicators until the outcomes of this review are clear. We will then consider whether new indicators are required and consult with landlords. We will respond to the Scottish Government’s review of EESSH.
2. Landlords’ discharge of their duties to people who are or have experienced homelessness, with a particular focus on duties to provide temporary and settled accommodation
As part of our annual risk assessment in 2021/22 and 2022/23, we engaged with all councils to develop a better understanding of the extent of the impact of the pandemic on their ability to deliver homelessness services and consequently on the outcomes for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. We also discussed with councils how they are working with RSL partners to provide permanent accommodation.
In February 2023 we published a thematic review of homelessness services in Scotland. It draws on the evidence from our engagement and from the information we gather to inform our annual risk assessment. To also help inform the review and our approach to regulation, some of our staff and Board members met with homelessness and advocacy bodies to hear about their work and perspectives in December 2022.
In the report we highlighted that councils face three major strategic challenges in providing homelessness services:
- dealing with the significant numbers of people currently in temporary accommodation;
- maintaining a sufficient supply of appropriate temporary accommodation; and
- ensuring access to the number of permanent homes that are needed.
We found that there is considerable pressure on councils in the provision of homelessness services, and there are actions councils should and can take to respond to these challenges and to meet their statutory obligations; however, for some there is an emerging risk of systemic failure.
It is in this context that we called upon the Scottish Government to consider what further urgent measures it can take to support councils to respond to the immediate challenges they face in delivering services for people who are homeless.
3. Landlords’ recovery from the pandemic including handling of any backlogs in housing services
We continued to work with the Scottish Social Housing Resilience Group during 2022/23. In May 2022 we published the final quarterly dashboard report for the group, covering the period 1 January to 31 March 2022. The dashboard was introduced by the Social Housing Resilience Group in March 2020 to help understand the impact of the pandemic and where support was needed. Landlords provided short monthly returns covering core areas including rent arrears, empty homes, lettings, staff absences (for RSLs) and homeless applications and offers (for local authorities).
In August 2022 we published our national report on social landlords’ performance against the standards and outcome of the Scottish Social Housing Charter during 2021/22. The report showed that:
- the number of times households experiencing homelessness were not offered temporary accommodation by local authorities rose;
- rent arrears are at the highest level since reporting against the Charter began;
- tenant satisfaction remains high - almost 9 out of 10 tenants are satisfied with the homes and services their landlord provides; and
- landlords let substantially more homes than in the previous year.
Alongside this we published a suite of performance information including individual landlord reports, comparison tool and all the statistical information landlords provided under the Charter. This allows tenants to find out more about their landlord’s performance in the areas that tenants have told us matter most:
- Emergency repairs response time remains at 4.2 hours
- Tenants satisfied with the quality of their homes decreased slightly to 85%
- Tenants satisfied that their rent is good value for money remains at 83%
- Average weekly rent increased to £85.36
- Tenants satisfied with their landlord’s contribution to neighbourhood management decreased slightly to 85%
- Anti-social behaviour cases which were resolved increased slightly to 95%
- First stage complaints responded to in full remains at 97%
- Average planned rent increases for 2022/23 went up to 3%
In January 2023 we published updated advisory guidance for landlords on surveying their tenants and service users about how they are performing against the Scottish Social Housing Charter. This was developed by an independent research firm and outlines the range of methods available to landlords and sets out best practice approaches.
4. Rent affordability and value for money
At the start of the year in April 2022 we set out that rent affordability and value for money continued to be a priority for us. We acknowledged the most challenging economic context in a generation with a range of inflationary pressures and that many tenants and their families are facing increasing financial hardship with significant pressures on their household incomes from increasing costs, most notably for domestic energy.
In September 2022 the Scottish Government announced its intention to introduce emergency legislation. The Cost of living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Act 2022) was passed by the Scottish Parliament in October introducing a cap on increases in rents at 0% until the end of March 2023 for homes provided by social and private landlords. The legislation gave Scottish Ministers the ability to extend the rent cap beyond March 2023 for two periods of six months and committed Scottish Ministers to set out no later than 14 January 2023 their decision on whether to expire the rent restrictions at the end of March, continue with a 0% cap for a further six months or set a different level for the cap from 1 April.
In September, at a time when social landlords are starting the process to set rent levels for 2023/24, we published a thematic review on rent increases by social landlords.
We reported that the average weekly rent was £85.36 in 2021/22 – that’s up by 1.8% from £83.84 on the previous year. Also that landlords’ rent increases for 2022/23 ranged from 0% to 6% and averaged 2.98% meaning every social landlord in Scotland applied a rent increase in April 2022 that was below inflation at that time and some did not apply any rent increases.
We encouraged landlords to continue to vigorously challenge every element of their expenditure to ensure that it is necessary; it is focused on delivery of outcomes for tenants and others who use their services, and that it represents value for money.
Speaking to tenants at the Tenants Information Service Annual conference, and later with landlords at the Employers in Voluntary Housing (EVH) conference, Michael Cameron, SHR Chief Executive, said:
“The Scottish Government’s recent announcement of a rent freeze is a clear demonstration of the importance it places on landlords keeping rents affordable, to help it achieve its social justice objectives on child poverty and fuel poverty. It is also looking to social landlords to invest significantly in tenants’ homes, including to improve energy efficiency and to decarbonise heating. In the context of a cost of living crisis for tenants and an emerging cost crisis for social landlords, the Scottish Government may need to consider what more it can do to help landlords to keep rents affordable and to continue to deliver for current and future tenants.”
In October 2022, we also wrote to all social landlords providing advice on the developing policy position on rent increases and landlords’ approach to tenant consultation and on the critical importance of reviewing business plans. Read the letter here.
We, along with many other housing sector stakeholders, participated in the Scottish Government’s task and finish group on rent increases.
In December 2022 the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and the SFHA announced their members’ intentions for rent in 2023/24. COSLA committed to keeping local authority rent increases to an average of no more than £5 a week.
Members of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Glasgow West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations reported planned increases averaging 6.1%. The use of average figures, rather than a fixed cap, allows landlords flexibility to honour the outcomes of the statutory tenant consultations social landlords must undertake each year on rent setting. No social landlord consulted on a rent increase at or above CPI inflation, which was 11.1% at the time of the data being collected.
In January 2023 the Scottish Government confirmed that regulations will be submitted to the Scottish Parliament to expire the provisions in the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Act 2022 relating to the rent cap in the social rented sector.
In January 2023 we wrote to all landlords to ask them to confirm their planned rent increases from 1 April – we would normally gather this information from the Charter returns submitted every May. To help the Scottish Government report to Parliament on the position with rent increases after 1 April 2023, we published this information in March 2023. We reported that the average increases in weekly rent social landlords will charge in 2023/24 is 5.07%, with the average for local authorities at 3.80% and for RSLs at 5.34%. The report notes that average increases range from 0.00% to 8.00% for all social landlords with a median of 5.00%.
We also continue to participate in the Scottish Government’s working group on rent affordability, which aims to agree a common understanding of affordability.
5. Governance & financial health in RSLs with a focus on business planning
In July 2022 we published advisory guidance on lessons learned to support RSLs when they are conducting reviews of compliance with Regulatory Standards of Governance and Financial Management. This guidance shares advice and lessons from real-life reviews with a particular focus on preparation of Annual Assurance Statements and sits alongside and complements the SFHA’s self-assurance toolkit.
Each year, RSL governing bodies or local authority committees must submit to us an Annual Assurance Statement providing assurance that their organisation complies with the relevant requirements of chapter 3 of the Regulatory Framework. This includes regulatory requirements that apply to all social landlords and the Standards of Governance and Financial Management that apply to RSLs.
In July 2022 we wrote to all social landlords with information to complement our guidance and support preparation of their Annual Assurance Statements, which they submitted at the end of October 2022. We highlighted some areas for landlords to consider including:
- any areas of non-compliance that may still relate to pandemic recovery or have been exacerbated by it;
- assurance on implementing an effective approach to the collection of equalities information and how their organisation is adopting a human rights approach to its work; and
- tenant and resident safety.
Internally we prepared for carrying out a programme of annual assurance visits to learn more about how landlords prepare statements and share good practice. We will start these visits in 2023/24.
We keep a public Register of Social Landlords (‘the Register’). To be admitted an organisation must meet the registration criteria set out in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 and in the Regulatory Framework. During 2022/23 we registered one new RSL in October 2022: Link Housing Association, in connection with Link Group restructuring. We also considered and approved voluntary deregistration applications from seven RSLs, which transferred to other RSLs, including: Aberdeen Soroptimists, Abbeyfield Scotland, Fairfield, Cube, Faifley, Pentland and Charing Cross.
In October 2022 we published our analysis of RSLs’ annual loan portfolio returns for the period April 2021 to March 2022. We reported that as well as the existing £6.55 billion borrowing, RSLs plan to increase their borrowing by an additional £1.3 billion over the next five years and that interest rates were at their highest level in 14 years and are forecast to rise further. We highlighted that 27% of RSLs’ total loan debt outstanding at the 31 March 2022 was on a variable interest rate, and every 1% increase would increase annual interest charges by around £13 million.
In December 2022 we published an overview of the aggregate financial forecasts and business plans data submitted to us by RSLs. We collect five-year financial projections from all RSLs annually and our report covered the period April 2022 – March 2027. We reported that financial performance should remain robust over the next five years. However, RSLs also continue to face a very challenging operating context. RSLs were forecasting continued surpluses, and annual growth of 5% on average.
They also forecast significant investment in new and existing homes with plans to develop more than 30,000 new homes and invest £1.7 billion in existing homes over the next five years.
In early March 2023 we published our annual analysis of RSL Audited Financial Statement returns for the year to 31 March 2022. We reported that, in general, RSLs robust financial performance and strong liquidity means they remain in a relatively strong position to respond to the financial challenges ahead, although those challenges are significant. RSL turnover increased by 5.5% to £1.90 billion while operating costs increased by 9.1% to £1.55 billion, well above both inflation and average rent increases during the period.
Shaun Keenan, SHR Assistant Director of Financial Regulation, said:
“Despite the many challenges, RSL financial performance was generally robust with turnover up, operating surplus dropping marginally and healthy interest cover. The financial performance in the year was backed up by strong liquidity with total cash and undrawn facilities totalling £1.81 billion as at 31 March 2022.
“The level of economic volatility and uncertainty facing RSLs and their tenants over the reporting period was unprecedented and since 31 March 2022 the complex and uncertain economic environment that RSLs operate in has worsened.
“It will be vital that RSLs are able to adjust their business plans and continue to manage their resources to ensure their financial well-being, while maintaining rents at a level that tenants can afford to pay.”
Each year we carry out a regulatory risk assessment to enable us to plan our engagement with social landlords. We publish information on our engagement with each social landlord in our engagement plans, and we publish a Regulatory Status for all RSLs. The Regulatory Status shows whether an RSL complies with the Regulatory Standards of Governance and Financial Management (the Regulatory Standards) and regulatory requirements, or is working towards compliance or where we are taking statutory action. We also highlight where a Regulatory Status is under review.
At the end of March 2022 we published engagement plans for all social landlords setting out the outcome of our risk assessment and our plans for engaging with organisations during the year. We continued to review our engagement during the year as new information became available or circumstances changed and we updated 18 engagement plans to reflect this during 2022/23.
In November 2022 we set out the risks that we planned to focus on in our 2022/23 risk assessment including: homelessness, landlord performance in delivering services, quality of homes, tenant and resident safety, the development of new homes, financial health, and governance in RSLs. We published the outcome of our risk assessment in March 2023 and reported:
What this means
Compliant ( 3 under review)
The RSL meets the Standards of Governance and Financial Management and regulatory requirements.
Working towards compliance
The RSL does not meet the Standards of Governance and Financial Management and regulatory requirements, and it is working to achieve compliance.
The RSL does not meet the Standards of Governance and Financial Management and regulatory requirements, and we are using statutory powers to address the non-compliance.
We also set out plans to continue our approach from the previous two years and engage with all local authorities around their services to people who are experiencing homelessness, with a particular focus on temporary accommodation. All our local authority scrutiny work is also directed through the Shared Risk Assessment (SRA) process with all the main scrutiny bodies for local government. We share information through a Local Area Network (LAN) – made up of officers from each of the scrutiny bodies – for each local authority.
We had no new or ongoing statutory interventions in social landlords during 2022/23. We published the final report on previous intervention at Fairfield Housing Association in January 2023. We share these reports so that governing bodies can consider the points when carrying out their own regular self-assurance and assessment of compliance with the Regulatory Standards.
To help inform our annual risk assessment and seek additional assurance, we carried out a review of one RSL’s approach to treasury management.
As part of our annual risk assessment, we also reviewed the minutes for three recent meetings of all RSLs. As part of this work, we found that some RSLs faced a number of challenges. We fed back our findings to individual landlords where we noted challenges.
During 2022/23, four whistle-blowers contacted us. None qualified as protected disclosures.
We sought further assurance from social landlords in three of these four cases.
Since 1 April 2019, we have required through our Regulatory Framework all social landlords to have effective arrangements and a policy for whistleblowing by staff and governing body/elected members which it makes easily available and which it promotes.
6. Being an effective public body
Alongside our regulatory risk assessment of social landlords, which is set out above, we identify and manage risks to us achieving our statutory objective through actively considering our corporate risk register and using our operating plan to plan any mitigating actions. This work is led each month by our Management Team, with regular input from our Audit & Risk Assurance Committee and Board.
We currently have one overarching risk, which is that we do not achieve our statutory objective. Below that sit seven additional risks covering our resources, shared services we receive from the Scottish Government, our Regulatory Framework, stakeholder support, business failure, public body compliance and the impact of developments out with our control.
During 2022/23, we saw an overall downward trend in a number of our risks, including those relating to our regulatory framework, business failure and public body compliance.
In 2023/24 we will use our positive budget settlement to recruit to our structure, and this will enable us to deliver our priorities. We will review our Regulatory Framework with our stakeholders to ensure it remains effective. We will remain agile and responsive, recognising the very complex environment for tenants, people who use social housing services and the landlords that deliver them.
We will continue to use our approach to risk management to remain responsive to the changing environment and mitigate the risks that could impact how we deliver against our objectives and priorities.
Our resources, duties and responsiveness as a public body and the outcome of audits about our work
We spent £4.75m of our £4.92m revenue and £0.2m capital budget. We achieved savings primarily because we held vacancies in response to Scottish Government’s budget planning. We are grateful for our 2023/24 budget settlement, which includes £5.3 million revenue and £0.4 million capital funding. This allows us to recruit to fill our structure and deliver on the priorities set out in our most recent strategy.
Our staff account for around 81% of our revenue budget. Our staff have continued to work flexibly and effectively during 2022/23 at home and in our offices. During 2022/23 we continued to work predominantly at home. The principal reason for this was a building-related problem in our Buchanan House office after Covid restrictions were eased. We had restricted access to Buchanan House until November 2022, at which point we left the building. For a short period from late November to March 2023 we worked predominantly at home with access to some space in the Scottish Government estate. In April 2023 we moved to temporary accommodation at George House and continue to plan for a move to a new permanent office no later than mid 2024. We ensured that our team continued to have the equipment and technical support they needed to work effectively at home and in our office spaces throughout the year.
In April 2022, we reported on our contribution to gender equality on public boards in Scotland. During 2022/23 we had four women and five men on our Board. For 2023/24 this will change to four women and four men. In March 2023 we published an update to our equalities statement highlighting the work we have done and future plans.
We commissioned independent research on our communications with stakeholders. So much has changed in recent years around how we communicate. We welcomed that overall our stakeholders continue to find the information we publish useful. We are grateful to all who participated and we continue to use the feedback to help shape how we work.
Our staff participated in the Civil Service people survey. Read the results here.
We published our annual statement on how we comply with the Public Service Reform Act. We also retained Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation and developed our approach to cyber resilience.
We agreed targets for achieving net zero carbon emissions. These include targets to:
- achieve net zero for ‘scope 1’ emissions – direct emissions from fuel used for heating and air-conditioning associated with our office accommodation – by 2025;
- achieve net zero for ‘scope 2’ emissions - indirect emissions associated with the consumption of purchased electricity, heat, steam and cooling – by 2025; and
- achieve the national ambition to reduce annual car miles by 20% - by 2030.
Our office accommodation is our main source of emissions. We will review these targets when we finalise our new permanent office arrangements. Like all public bodies, we operate in a challenging financial context. We will continue to invest in technology that enables us to work flexibly, harness technology and enables us to reduce the need for business travel.
We submitted a report on our compliance with climate change duties in November 2022, which included these new targets.
Our Board and Management Team monitor our performance against our Corporate and operational plans, including our targets.
8 working days
20 working days
20 working days
Significant Performance Failures
5 working days
10 working days
*One FOI request & one FOI review request responded to out with target timescales.
We received no appeals or requests to review our regulatory decisions in 2022/23.
In December 2022, we presented evidence in our 2021/22 annual report and accounts to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee who are responsible for scrutinising our work. We kept the Committee updated on all our publications and news throughout the year.
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In 2022/23 we achieved substantial assurance from our internal auditor and an unqualified audit opinion from Audit Scotland.