An accounting fiasco has cost the council almost half a million pounds, it has been revealed.

Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) 2016/17 accounts were finally audited and published in July last year after a two-year delay due to historic failures by the council to meet good accounting standards.

It was revealed yesterday this cost £600,000, almost half a million more than the initial expected cost of £108,000.

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The accounts should have been verified by auditors EY in September 2017. Deadlines for the 2017/18 and 2018/19 statements have also been missed as a result.

Lib Dem Councillor Ricky Duveen, speaking at Full Council on Tuesday (February 25) hit out at the administration for failing to publish its accounts on time.

He said: “Producing verified accounts for each financial are the basic requirements for any accounting system.

“It is now becoming clear that this administration cannot be trusted to produce accounts on time and is clearly lacking the capacity to do so.

“Have we learnt nothing from this saga and the failure of governance that produced it?

“The never-ending issues with producing the council’s accounts are a disgrace and do nothing to promote residents’ confidence in their elected councillors.

“Other councils seem to manage perfectly well.”

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Councillor Jason Brock, leader of RBC, said the delay in producing the 2017/18 accounts is entirely down to the delay in publishing the 2016/17 accounts.

He said the difficulties in closing the 2016/17 accounts have “quite properly” resulted in a more stringent audit of the 2017/18 accounts.

The Labour leader said these accounts are now expected to be signed off in June 2020, with the audit of both the 2018/19 and the 2019/20 accounts then expected to begin in August 2020.

The 2019/20 accounts should be the first accounts in four years to be completed on time, according to the leader.

Cllr Brock added: “At the time of writing approximately 50 councils have not yet produced signed-off accounts for the 2018/19 financial year, primarily due to a nationwide shortage of external auditors.”

As well as the £600,000 cost for auditing the 2016/17 accounts, the council has spent £160,029 so far on the following year, while fees for the 2018/19 accounts are not yet confirmed.