THERE has been a further delay in Warrington Borough Council’s accounts for 2017-18 being signed off by auditors following the controversial investment in Redwood Bank.
A disagreement between the council and their auditor’s “banking experts” has resulted in the need to bring in another expert, along with the long term absence of the audit manager through illness, had resulted in further dwlays.
Members of the council’s Audit and Corporate Governance Committee heard there was now still no date for when the Warrington Borough Council 2017/18 Accounts would be signed off.
The delay has been caused by a public objection concerning the Council’s investment in Redwood Bank.
Admitting it was a complex issue Cllr Ian Marks, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Finance, said, “This issue is raised at every meeting of the Audit and Corporate Governance Committee. It is a complex accounting matter and you need to be a qualified accountant to have any hope of understanding what is going on.
“The problem is that we keep on being promised dates for the sign-off but these are never met. From the meeting last week it now appears we are going backwards. An expert now has to be employed to give advice. We pressed for a new date for the sign-off but no date was forthcoming from the Auditors, Grant Thornton, or from senior Council officers.
“When the 2017/18 accounts are cleared we will then still have to wait for the 2018/19 accounts to be audited.
“I am concerned that this long delay is not doing the reputation of the Council, or of Grant Thornton, any good. Although there may be perfectly innocent differences of view about accounting procedures, the public can be forgiven for thinking there is something fundamentally flawed in the Council’s Bank investment. The sooner this problem is resolved the better.”
Deputy Chief Executive & Director of Corporate Services Lynton Green told the committee that due to the passage of time there had been changes in accountancy methods which had caused delays.
There was also disagreement with Grant Thornton’s “banking experts” and the council would now have to bring in an expert to help validate it.
He added it felt like a “complete nonsense” when looking at the valuation of the bank in 2017-18 to its valuation now of over £120m.
Members of the committee also heard that the objection to the accounts had cost the council £65,000, two-thirds of which was reimbursement of legal costs.
The initial delay was caused by a member of the public challenging the council’s controversial investment in Redwood Bank via a holding company Redwood Financial Partners Ltd (“RFPL”).
The council took a 33 percent share in the holding company of new bank, investing an initial £10m in the scheme, followed by a further £20m.
A Warrington Borough Council spokesperson said: “We continue to work closely with our auditors to help them complete their audit as soon as possible. This has taken longer than expected due to the absence of key staff within Grant Thornton.”
The meeting can be viewed via Microsoft teams by CLICKING HERE