VIDEO: Warrington Borough Council’s accounts will hopefully be signed off in March says council leader Cllr Russ Bowden.
During a live streamed Q&A Cllr Bowden also discussed the “smoke and mirrors” £8m “windfall from the Government, which he says will have no impact on Monday’s Full Council budget meeting and a proposed 3.98 pc council tax rise.
Other topics include the council’s near £1 Billion debt and controversial investments in Redwood Bank, which resulted in the accounts not being signed off and a Scottish Energy company, rated bottom of the league in Which magazine customer satisfaction survey and the Local Plan, in particular the threat to Green Belt.
With regard to the accounts from 2017-18 and 2018-19 still not being signed off by external Auditors grant Thornton Cllr Bowden said: “The LGA Review of 2019 carried out shortly after I became leader showed one of our strongest areas was around corporate finance and managing the council accounts. Considering the £139m cuts since 2010 we have managed to keep the show on the road which I am very proud of.
“We could have passed cuts on but took the view with capital borrowing to get a return. While we have a long term debt of £900m this is offset by over £1.3 billion of assets around property like Birchwood Park.”
Cllr Bowden conceded that some investments, like Redwood Bank, hadn’t given an instant return, although he was still “confident” of a return.
Commenting on the issue of the council’s accounts not being signed off for the past two years he said it had been a “really difficult process” but not an unusual situation, with 40 per cent of council’s not having last year’s accounts signed off.
He said the council accounts for 2017-18 were available to be viewed online and that there was nothing to hide.
“There is nothing wrong with the accounts, just a technical issue involving the council’s investment in Redwood Bank.
“We have been working hard with Grant Thornton and the objector to get this resolved. There is no significant issue to be worried about.
“Then we move on to 2018-19 and we have a very similar issue. Residents can go to the council website and see the accounts. There is nothing to hide and hopefully they will be signed off in March.”
Cllr Bowden also provides an update on ongoing issues including finding a suitable site for Travellers and a Waste Transfer Station – with no suitable locations currently on the horizon.
He said around 300 potential sites had been looked at for a Travellers encampment, some on Warrington Borough Council land and some privately owned but none had so far been deemed suitable.
To hear the full interview check out the video above.