UK Govt inspects Warrington Council and its £1.8bn debt

Warrington Borough Council

The UK Government has ordered a “best value” inspection into Warrington Borough Council amid its huge level of debt.

The inspection will be conducted under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999.

“As of March 2023, relative to size, Warrington had the second highest level of debt for a unitary authority in England (£1.8 billion),” said the UK government.

“The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities commissioned the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) to undertake a detailed capital assurance review of Warrington Borough Council.

“CIPFA’s review concluded the portfolio of debt-funded investments for Warrington Borough Council was very large and that the council was experiencing decision-making, governance and oversight issues. Having regard to that review, together with the council’s response and other related assessments, ministers have taken the view that there are clear financial risks, and, if they materialise, that are likely to have significant impact on local residents and some impact on the national public purse.

“Accordingly, to support the Council to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement, ministers have appointed Paul Najsarek to inspect Warrington Borough Council’s compliance with its Best Value Duty.”

The council said: “The inspection will undoubtedly have our full cooperation, and we will work positively, openly and at pace with the inspector.

“Equally, we welcome the CIPFA review report being made public, following their review in February 2023. We have supported the report being made public since receiving the draft report in September 2023.

“While DLUHC recognises that we have taken steps to address areas for improvement, we will continue to identify any learning and further improvements that can be made as part of this inspection process.

“Finally, we would like to reassure residents and businesses that this review will not impact the valuable services that you depend upon. We will continue to make sure that our day-to-day services remain at the standard you expect and deserve.”