Academy trusts - are you ready for the land and buildings collection tool?
All government departments have to complete a Sector Annual Report and Accounts. Since the introduction of academies, the Department for Education (DfE) have had a qualification in their audit report relating to the valuation of land and buildings held by academies.
This has come about because the National Audit Office is not satisfied with the level of information held regarding buildings within academy trusts and considers there to be potential inconsistencies in recognition and valuation criteria across the sector. The DfE have committed to not having the qualification going forward and have therefore introduced the land and buildings collection tool.
The new tool will collect data regarding land and buildings within academy trusts on a consistent basis, this will then be used to create a single fixed asset register.
Trusts need to gather together the key data regarding their land and buildings as at 31 August 2017.
But what does this mean for academy trusts? Who is responsible for completing the work and is it just another admin task?
Well, unfortunately yes it is more admin without there being a specific benefit for the trust. However, as we have experienced with other new projects within the sector, the first year will likely be the most challenging. In the future years, unless there are changes within the trust, the information should roll forward.
An excel version of the workbook has already been released along with guidance on the return. The actual return opens on 1 October 2017 and trusts have until 31 October 2017 to file.
As with the 2016 AAR format you will not be able to file the excel workbook, the data will need to be transferred to the online portal prior to submission.
What do you need to do now?
- Decide who will be responsible for completing the initial data gathering and completing the return
- Check you can still access the portal and have your log on details, this should be the same as for the AAR
- Read the guidance and the details at the start of the workbook, this gives a good overview as to how many tabs and workbooks you need to complete
- Complete the excel workbook, one for each school within the trust. If you have a central office this will also be done separately
- The work book contains separate tabs for freehold, leasehold and church school properties
- Gather a plan for each school, this doesn’t have to be overly complicated, for example the visitor map should be sufficient
- Upload the data onto the portal, arrange for this to be reviewed and approved by the Accounting Officer
The return does not have to be audited and does not contain valuation information. The questions are fairly straight forward – mainly covering information such as improvements to the buildings and number of floors, this will allow for an improved desktop valuation to be carried out by the DfE.
But will there be teething problems?
Well it wouldn’t feel right to have a new online form without some technical issues! As always our advice would be make sure you have completed the excel workbook in full and log any problems with the help desk as soon as possible. That way you can always e-mail the workbook as a back up and have a record of what you were trying to submit.