Extra scrutiny for council companies

By Dan Peters | 18 January 2021

Senior councillors will receive a confidential quarterly report on the performance of all Warrington Council companies after two external reviews into the authority’s commercial approach.

The detailed financial review from the Local Government Association (LGA) and PwC’s governance review of the council’s commercial programme came after overspends and calls for improvements from auditors.

Warrington, which has attracted attention for a number of high-profile investments, has recently spent £211m on a science and business park, £18m on an energy provider and £30m on a stake in Redwood Bank.

Councillors will now receive an options paper on how governance arrangements for all the council’s companies can be improved and receive bespoke training on property investments and risk management.

The council said it would consider creating a group board to oversee its companies and a new committee to provide member oversight.

However, the council has rejected a suggestion from PwC that it should appoint external advisers to provide ‘independent assurance and monitoring’ of its investment in Redwood Bank, insisting that that the observer status role of its Section 151 officer Lynton Green has on the board was ‘sufficient’.

The council had been involved in a row with the LGA after disagreeing with the contents of its review and only agreed to publish it following pressure from The MJ.

It is not clear what changes the LGA agreed to make to its original draft.

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