WARRINGTON Borough Council faces more ‘reputational’ damage as the uncertainty over its accounts rumbles on.

It 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 and in the public interest.

They are yet to be signed off, while the council also received an objection to its 2018-19 accounts over the investment from retired accountant Richard Buttrey.

Grant Thornton, the authority’s independent external auditor, failed to sign them off before its deadline at the end of July.

They will not be able to be signed off until the previous year’s accounts are done.

In September 2018, Mr Buttrey submitted a Freedom of Information request asking for copies of correspondence between the council and Grant Thornton in connection with the 2017-18 accounts.

He says the Labour-run authority ‘stalled and prevaricated’ for more than 12 months and subsequently took the matter to the Information Commissioner (IC).

It recently wrote to the council and asked it to provide the complainant with a ‘full response’ to his request.

Mr Buttrey said he welcomed the IC’s involvement.

He added: “I’m saddened that the council have prevaricated for over 12 months and can only assume that the correspondence may contain things that might be embarrassing and which the council would prefer not to disclose.”

The council says it has now provided Mr Buttrey with ‘as full a response as possible’ but he has rejected the statement and remains frustrated.

The 2017-18 accounts were discussed during the last audit and corporate governance committee meeting at the Town Hall.

The committee was told the auditors are ‘endeavouring to bring it to a conclusion as soon as possible’.

Former council leader Cllr Ian Marks asked what the implications are for the council if it ‘goes on and on’ and if there are ‘any sanctions’.

He was told ‘there are no financial penalties’ and that the implications are more related to ‘reputational’ damage.

A council spokesman said: “We continue to work with Grant Thornton to ensure they complete this work as quickly as possible.”