Still no date for Council accounts sign-off

January 17, 2021 1:00 PM
By Cllr Ian Marks - Finance spokesperson

There is still no date for the last three years' Warrington Borough Council accounts to be signed off by auditor Grant Thornton.

wp-content/uploads/imarks.jpgCouncillors were hoping to hear a date at the Audit Committee last week but nothing was forthcoming, apart from a statement that the Council and Grant Thornton were getting closer to agreement. Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Finance, Cllr Ian Marks says: I have lost count of how many dates have been promised to us. It was significant that this time the Auditor would not commit himself to a date, which suggests there is still some way to go. There are three sets of accounts outstanding - 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20. The ongoing delay can only be doing harm to the Labour Council's reputation and is costing a fortune in fees.

We were told about the action list the Council has agreed following a financial review by the Local Government Association and a governance review by a leading firm of accountants, PwC. The two investments that have generated the most criticism and controversy are Redwood Bank and Together Energy. I am pleased to see there are proposals to consider appointing external advisors to monitor the Council's investment in the bank and to review board appointments on both bodies.

Due to changes in national regulations, councils can no longer make investments just to generate revenue to support essential services, even though no alternative source of funding has been proposed by central government.

We have criticised the Council for this in the past, where we felt that investments were too risky, so welcome the statement at the Audit Committee of a policy change. Liberal Democrats agree the need to find creative ways of generating income to safeguard basic services in the face of stringent cuts by government. However, we believe Labour has made some wrong decisions and exposed current and future council tax payers to excessive risk by building up huge debts.