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Council audit of finances seven months overdue

An audit of Slough Borough Council’s finances is seven months past its deadline, councillors were told at a meeting last week.

An examination of the local authority’s financial statements for 2018/19 was supposed to be completed by July 31, 2019.

Accounting firm Grant Thornton confirmed at a meeting of the audit and corporate governance committee on Thursday, March 5 that the process has still not been finished.

Cllr Waqas Shabah (Lab, Farnham) told the meeting: “The accounts are seven months past the deadline. We have no idea when we’ll get to see them.

“Not only is this reputationally damaging for the council, it will also impact on our ability to close down on the 2019/20 accounts and prepare for the 2021/22 accounts.”

The meeting heard the accountants Grant Thorn-ton had previously blamed the hold-up on council errors and financial information being provided in the wrong format.

But Cllr Shabah said this had been labelled a ‘one-sided view’ by the council’s director of finance Neil Wilcox.

Julie Misci, from Grant Thornton, told the meeting there had been ‘a number of issues and complications’ since the firm began the external audit of the council’s finances.

She added the firm is committed to finishing the audit as soon as possible but could not guarantee when this would be.

Cllr Sabia Akram, deputy leader of the council, said: “I think it’s unacceptable that nobody can give us a time-table.

“If I did that in my private life in my private work I wouldn’t have a job.”

Slough is one of 80 local authorities across the country which is yet to have its accounts signed off by external auditors for the 2018/19 financial year.

Council chief executive Josie Wragg said an ‘audit of the audit’ will be carried out. Cllr Wayne Strutton (Con, Haymill and Lynch Hill), the Conservative group leader, called for audit to be carried out by an independent body.

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