2020/21 has been a year when OSR has worked well to fulfil our ambitions and our responsibilities to the public, particularly in respect of the pandemic. We had been building our capability and maturity as a regulator and have been able to consolidate our efforts at this important time. The pandemic has required us to be agile in how we operate, and our team has responded well at a time of high pressure. The pandemic has though had some direct consequences for how we have been able to operate that have impacted our spending. In 2020/21 we underspent by £458,000 – with underspends in salaries, travel and research consultancy.

In recognition of the importance of the need for a strong independent regulator, OSR has been in a period of steady growth almost doubling in size since 2016/17. We have lived with a higher number of vacancies this year than we would want. We are now working to improve our succession planning and speed up recruitment. We are actively recruiting now with a view to reaching our optimum size of 47 staff during 2021/22 and maintaining levels more effectively.

We have worked well to adapt to engaging our stakeholders and to collaborate remotely over the last year, and we foresee that we will continue to have reduced pressure on travel costs for at least the next six months. That said, this year we have learned the value of face-to-face engagement to innovation, creativity, advocating for the Code, and for the wellbeing and morale of our team who are spread across the UK. We will expect to gradually increase our spending again in  2021/22 though not to previous levels. Our budgeting forecasts will reflect this.

We have committed to a smaller research consultancy budget in 2021/22 but this year has identified new issues where it will be important to break new ground – particularly around data – and our work around the public good of statistics is picking up pace, and so we are confident of delivering value for money from any work we commission, working with strategic partners and broadening our reach.

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