RESIDENTS have been warned things could become ‘a whole lot worse’ as uncertainty continues to surround when the council’s accounts will be signed off.

The authority failed to sign off its 2017-18 statement of accounts before last year’s July 31 deadline due to a valid objection questioning whether its investment into Redwood Bank was legal.

Grant Thornton is the authority’s independent external auditor, appointed by the Public Sector Audit Appointments under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.

Penketh resident Chris Haggett, a retired chartered public finance accountant, lodged the objection the accounts.

And he has expressed serious concerns over the accounting firm.

He said: “The Liverpool office of Grant Thornton (the borough council’s auditors) have hardly covered themselves in glory.

“After they missed a July deadline, a special meeting of the council’s audit committee was arranged for last September, in the expectation of the accounts for 2017-18 being signed off.

“The meeting had to be cancelled when Grant Thornton said they were not ready and now – nine months on – we are still no further forward.

“But things may be about to get a whole lot worse.

“The public notice (just published) about the council’s latest (2018-19) accounts indicates that it is Grant Thornton’s Manchester office which will be handling the audit.

“Last August, the Financial Reporting Council fined Grant Thornton £3 million for misconduct over the audits by this office of Vimto-maker Nichols plc and the University of Salford.

“It reported on ‘concerns raised about the widespread and inadequate controls in the Manchester office’.

“And the further questionable news? The council has appointed Grant Thornton as external auditors for the next five years.”

The council did not wish to comment but Grant Thornton UK LLP has issued a short statement.

A spokesman said: “Grant Thornton remains in ongoing dialogue with Warrington Borough Council in relation to its 2017-18 accounts.

“We are unable to comment further at this time.”