Please see below a press release from the Conservative group raising the serious issues arising from the withholding of the external auditors letter issued in May 2020!
“Conservative Borough Councillors continue to be denied access to a copy of the May 2020 letter from the External Auditor, to the Chief Executive of Warrington Borough Council, raising issues of concern, in relation to the Audit of the Council.
The Conservative Group believe that it is in the interest of Openness and Transparency that the public are made fully aware of the Issues contained in the letter that were briefly referred to by the External Auditor, Grant Thornton, at the public Audit and Corporate Governance Committee (ACG) meeting on the 22 July 2021.
We believe the issues the External Auditor referred to at that meeting , relating to the letter, are as follows:
-Compliance with the Prudential Code in respect of commercial investments.
-Timeliness of financial reporting considerations.
-The adequacy of the Council’s Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP).
-The governance arrangements in relation to monitoring and reporting of investments.
-The decision to invest in Together Energy Ltd.
There may well be other issues that the External Auditor raised. However, without sight of the letter, we are unable to confirm the full breadth and depth of the concerns.
Although, Individually we believe each of these issues are problematic, collectively they raise very serious concerns over the Council’s Financial and Investment decisions and about the Governance of the Council.
At the July ACG, Grant Thornton Thornton also raised the prospect of using Additional Powers in relation to the Audit of the council. This is a very serious matter for an External Auditor to raise at a public meeting and the potential consequences of such should not be taken lightly. The Council has not secured sign off of its accounts for 2017/18 and beyond
The Conservative Group believe that rather than stating that the disclosure of the May 2020 Auditor’s letter is not “appropriate or helpful”, the matters contained within the letter have to become a matter of public record so that the affairs of the Council can be subject to the scrutiny that is right and proper for an organisation which has run up £1.6Bn of debt and just revealed it has given a £200M credit facility to a company controlled by a billionaire.
Councillor Ken Critchley stated, “For the External Auditor to reveal that a letter was written to the Council over twelve months ago outlining serious concerns over its financial affairs and for the existence of that letter to remain within a closed circle instead of being released to the Audit and Corporate Governance Committee Members, other elected Members and the general public raises very serious questions of the Openness and Transparency of this Labour run Council. What are they hiding?
Furthermore for the External Auditor to feel the need to raise these serious issues with the council publicly suggests that the Council has not been listening to these concerns. External Auditors are there to ensure that the accounts reflect a true and fair view of the operation of an organisation. To be in this situation with the External Auditor is not a normal state of affairs. It suggests that there are very serious issues in relation to the Council’s audit and the information contained within the draft Accounts. We need to know the truth.”
The Conservative Group calls upon the Labour leadership to act in an Open and Transparent manner by agreeing to the release of the External Auditor’s letter to the Members of the Audit and Corporate Governance Committee, other Members of the Council and the general public. It is time people knew what is really going on.”