PROBLEMS with the way the council values its property were the reason behind a two-month delay in signing off the town hall’s accounts, external auditors have said.

Technical accounting errors meant that assets were either undervalued or overvalued by hundreds of thousands of pounds each.

External auditors Mazars, who are expected to sign off the accounts by the end of the week, criticised the “worrying standard” of record keeping in the property, plant and equipment department.

But they told the audit committee that the mistakes were “relatively small” given the size of the council’s coffers and said that the bottom line of its balance sheet had not been affected.

Director Karen Murray also warned councillors on Tuesday that the town hall must find ways of making savings without relying on “one-off measures” such as using reserves.

She said: “You have been hugely successful in the way you have balanced the books with emergency measures. That’s not sustainable going forward. And I know that’s something that the new leadership team at the council are keen to address. You as a committee do need to keep an eye on what’s being done in terms of finding savings.”

Chief finance officer Mike Woodhead welcomed the “fresh scrutiny” from Mazars who audited the council’s accounts for the first time this year.

He stressed that there is no incentive for a local authority to overvalue its property because it does not borrow against the value of its assets in the way that private companies do.

The finance boss, who also oversees Bury’s clinical commissioning body, promised to work with the external auditors to address the issues they have raised.

He said: “There’s a number of things that need to happen going forward. Training might be part of that. We need to do a really detailed piece of work to understand what needs to change for next time, then we’ll get into the detail.

“We haven’t done anything different in this set of accounts that we have in the last however many years. If problems haven’t been highlighted in the previous years, there’s an issue of people thinking they are doing it right.”

But Conservative councillor David Silbiger was not impressed with the outcome of the audit.

He said: “The estate teams within the council have really messed up. This is not a laughing matter. Heads should roll.”

Mazars expect to give the council the green light by issuing an unqualified opinion on its financial statement. A total of 10 audit adjustments were required and two recommendations with a medium to low priority have been made.