A POLITICAL row has erupted over a Labour-run Warrington Borough Council investment with councillors being told to ‘provide explanations’ to residents.

Cllr Nigel Balding, who is the leader of the Conservative group on the council, has published his 73-page report on the £10 million investment into Altana Corporate Bond Fund.

The report is a response to the council’s post-completion review of its investment in the Altana Corporate Bond Fund.

The report discusses a timeline of the investment decisions made since 2018 and the associated council treasury management reports.

The council’s decision-making is reviewed, along with the associated rules in Government statutes, professional guidance, and the council constitution.

The report concludes that, in the author’s opinion, the council failed to get the necessary permission before it spent the £10 million, and for the next three years it issued misleading reports about the type of its investment, its valuation, and its returns.

Cllr Balding said: “In my opinion WBC has departed from prudent management of our monies and has been sucked into a series of investment gambles which have nothing to do with being a council.

“It’s a field of expertise which is different from normal council responsibilities, and WBC chose to cover up what it was doing by misleading councillors.

“The Labour councillors group has been in charge at Warrington Borough Council since before this investment was made and they now need to provide explanations to residents.

“They must explain whether they knew that WBC had invested in a fund of junk bonds (if not, why not?) and why did they allow (or encourage) the council to publish misleading financial information?

“My report provides 18 easily implementable recommendations. Several have been proposed before by others, but many are new.

“I’m asking for WBC and Labour councillors to provide a formal response before allowing a proper discussion of the full report and all its recommendations.”

Labour’s Cllr Denis Matthews, the council’s cabinet member for corporate finance, has issued a statement in response.

He said: “The local Conservative group are obviously entitled to their views, but it is in my opinion a sign of their failure to deliver any positive improvements for their residents in the past three years that they have here raised an issue already investigated and fully resolved.

“The simple question for Warrington residents in the May elections is what have the Conservatives delivered for Warrington in the past 14 years. With the Tory record of national failure, what positive vision do local Conservative candidates offer.

“In regard to the Altana Corporate Bond Fund, a report imaginatively named ‘post completion review of the Altana Corporate Bond Fund’ was presented to the audit & corporate governance committee on 18th January 2024.

“This report is once again publicly available and can be found on the council website within the specific audit & corporate governance committee meeting agenda pack.

“Cllr Balding will been aware that this report has already been produced and considered by the committee, and in my opinion presents a very different picture.

“The investment was as per the council’s agreed treasury management strategy previously agreed by the audit & corporate governance committee and full council, which adheres to the council’s constitution.

“Further, can I refer Cllr Balding to the scheme of delegation for treasury management contained within section 20 of the Council’s 2024/25 treasury management strategy agreed at full council on 26th February 2024 and which fully complies with the 2021 CIPFA Treasury Management Code. It is indeed the audit & corporate governance committee that are charged with the scrutiny of treasury management.

“I am once again happy to meet with Cllr Balding to discuss his report and the recommendations that it makes, but debate via press statement does little to improve the daily lives of the residents that we were elected to serve.”