The council has failed to meet its legal obligation to allow the public to annually inspect its accounts during a common period for a second year running.

National Audit Office guidance states that councils must make accounts available for public inspection in a common period with other local authorities.

For larger authorities such as Reading Borough Council (RBC), this is between June 3 and July 14 for the 2018/19 accounts.

A council spokesman said: “It is not possible for a council to prepare a set of accounts until the previous accounts have been completed.”

RBC’s accounts have not been signed off for the last three years due to historic failures by the council to meet good accounting practice and control standards.

The council expects the 2017/18 inspection period will be in July, more than a year late, with a notice to be put on the council’s website later this month.

Accounts for this year are then expected to follow in August.

The 2016/17 draft accounts were subject to a public inspection period from July 3 – August 11, 2017.

Josh Williams, Green Party member of the council's Audit and Governance committee, said: “This lack of openness and transparency is again a disappointing. It reflects a council in crisis.

“So far around £500,000 has been wasted sorting out this mess caused by Labour’s cuts to the finance team.

“This money would have been far better spent saving children’s centres, tackling rough sleeping and protecting swimming pools.

“Green councillors will continue to hold this Labour council to account and stand up for our public services.”

Due to the council failing to record its spending properly, the 2016/17 accounts could not be audited and signed off in September 2017 and are still awaiting approval from new auditors EY.

Councillor Jason Brock, leader of RBC, said he ‘won’t put a timescale’ on the 2016/17 accounts being ready.

He added: “It is extraordinary that auditors had not identified this in the past.

“We have got a changed team in finance. They have really grappled with the task and we are going to be in a better place moving forward. It is unfortunate that it has been such a long process.”

The right to inspect the accounts is personal. The external auditor has no role in enforcing inspection rights. Similarly, the National Audit Office cannot intervene.

You can ask the Citizens Advice Bureau for help, or a solicitor to enforce your rights. If this does not work, you may go through the courts.

Inspection rights are covered by Section 26 of the Act and the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015.