An accounts fiasco that cost the council more than £1 million could soon be resolved.

The council has revealed the latest on the attempts to solve the saga which started with the 2016/17 accounts, ahead of an Audit and Governance committee meeting on Monday, October 12.

The latest report suggests 2020/21 should be the first year the council has its accounts signed off on time since 2015/16.

READ MORE: Planning roundup - former pub will become permanent hub for homeless

The update

EY’s audit of the 2017/18 accounts is now complete, with EY set to reveal its opinion on these accounts the Audit and Governance committee meeting next week.

This follows on from the audit’s two-year-delayed 2016/17 audit’s completion in July 2019, where EY gave a qualified adverse opinion due to the failures in accounting.

The draft 2018/19 accounts are complete and were handed over to EY in mid-February this year, with audit work now underway.

Finally, the draft 2019/20 accounts are expected to be handed over by “the end of October at the latest” according to the report.

The report states that officers had to “overcome a number of challenges to get to this stage as a result of Covid 19”.

Councils were given an extension until August 31 to publish this year’s accounts due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which RBC has missed, and until the end of November to publish the final accounts, which is also likely to be missed.

What went wrong?

Accounts are a summary of an organisation’s financial activity over a 12-month period.

They should be accurate and transparent financial information which gives a true and fair view of the council’s economic performance and financial stability.

READ MORE: Development plans at 'stunning' Edwardian house refused for SIXTH time in THREE years

They are audited to make sure they meet this criteria and accounts should be published in September each year.

But due to historic failures by the council to meet good accounting standards, Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) it took an extra two years for the 2016/17 accounts to be signed off and deadlines for the following two years’ account have also been missed as a result.

This year’s accounts are set to follow the trend, with the 2019/20 draft deadline already missed.

How much has solving the accounting failures cost the council?

EY’s audit of the council’s 2016/17 accounts cost £708,000, a huge £600,000 more than the initial expected cost of £108,000.

The council has not yet received EY’s final audit fee for the audit of the council’s 2017/18 accounts but EY indicated in May the fee is likely to be at least £400,000 above the normal amount due to the additional work involved.

This means the council has spent at least an extra £1 million on top of the usual fee to get the 2016/17 and 2017/18 accounts published, while another premium fee could follow in 2018/19.

Council leader Jason Brock said in July it is not yet possible to give an estimate of audit costs for 2018/19 as it will be influenced by the findings of the 2017/18 audit.