TOWN Hall chiefs have welcomed significant progress over the council’s 2017-18 accounts which are yet to be signed off.

The Labour-run council failed to sign off its 2017-18 statement of accounts before the deadline of July 31 in 2018 due to a valid objection questioning whether its investment into Redwood Bank was legal.

In addition, the objection – lodged by retired chartered public finance accountant Chris Haggett – asked whether it was in the public interest.

In January 2017, the council controversially agreed to pay around £30 million to buy a 33 per cent share in Redwood Bank.

Last year, it made its third payment to bring its investment to just under the agreed amount.

Grant Thornton is the authority’s independent external auditor.

During the virtual audit and corporate governance committee meeting on Thursday, former council leader Cllr Ian Marks asked: “Have we any information about when we might get Grant Thornton to sign off these earlier accounts?”

Lynton Green, the council’s director of corporate services and deputy chief executive, said: “My understanding is that we will have an answer on the 2017-18 objection very shortly and I do mean very shortly.”

Cllr Marks replied: “In a few months?”

Mr Green then said: “No, no, we are talking within a week.

“But once we have got that there are still a few things to finalise before Grant Thornton can sign off the accounts but that would resolve the objection position.”

Council chief executive Steven Broomhead has also discussed the matter.

On Tuesday, he said: “Clearly, the objector will be written to regarding his objections, that’s just one part of the sign-off of the accounts and we expect that to be done very, very soon.

“The objector will then have some time to consider what has been said to him before he may have to go to court to put in an appeal.

“He will need to go through the courts and the objector will decide whether or not he wishes to go through the courts.

“I will be hoping that the accounts will be signed off in the early autumn, we are on a pathway to that now.”

Mr Haggett, aged 75, has confirmed he received Grant Thornton’s decision and statement of reasons in relation to his objection to the 2017-18 accounts last Friday.

He added: “The document is marked ‘confidential’, so I am not allowed to divulge anything further about it at this stage.

“The objection was lodged in June 2018. It challenged the legality of Warrington Borough Council’s investment in Redwoood Bank and questioned whether it was in the public interest.”