TIGHT-LIPPED council chiefs are facing renewed pressure over a bank it has invested almost £30 million in after a retired accountant claimed it has ‘failed to meet’ its purpose.

The authority controversially approved the risky investment to buy a 33 per cent share in Redwood Bank in 2017 – despite major concerns from politicians and residents.

Earlier this year, it made its third payment to bring the money spent to just under the agreed £30 million.

However, it faces a £1.3 million-a-year bill to borrow money to fund the investment but says, by year five, it expects the costs to be ‘mitigated’ by dividends from the bank.

Penketh resident Chris Haggett, a retired chartered public finance accountant, is among those keeping a close eye on the borough’s financial strategy.

He said: “Warrington Borough Council’s £30 million stake in Redwood Bank is listed in the council’s draft financial accounts on its website as an investment under their ‘invest to save’ scheme.

“The ‘invest to save’ scheme involves purchasing properties, such as Birchwood Park, to boost income for the council through rent.

“Redwood Bank has never been approved as an investment under that scheme and, in fact, precedes it by some margin.”

In Redwood Bank’s latest available accounts, for the year ending December 31 2017, it highlights its ‘geographically diversified’ lending portfolio.

It states the North East accounted for 18 per cent of lending, Warrington and the North West 19 per cent, West Midlands six per cent, Greater London seven per cent, Yorkshire and Humberside nine per cent, South East seven per cent and East Midlands 34 per cent.

Mr Haggett said: “Its purpose dates back to a 2013 survey, which resulted in a pledge in 2015 to find a way of making funds available to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Warrington.

“In January 2017, the council approved the investment in Redwood Bank as a means of fulfilling that pledge.

“But it has failed to meet that purpose to any material degree.

“The latest available accounts for Redwood Bank (2017) contain an analysis of lending by area and by type.

“This suggests that only about five per cent of its total lending went to SMEs in Warrington.

“I wonder if this is the reason the investment has now been rebranded by the council.”

Council bosses say they can’t comment on where money has been lent as it is ‘commercially confident’.

A spokesman added: “The council is pleased with the performance of Redwood Bank in the first two years of trading, the bank continues to perform well in line with its originally approved business case and within budget.”