NEARLY 40 per cent of the council’s audit reports for the last financial year were considered “inadequate” or “unsatisfactory” by town hall managers.

A total of 41 internal audits were completed at Bury Council in the financial year ending April 2020.

But only 61 per cent had a positive outcome with an adequate, good or very good opinion on the level of assurance provided.

However, the council’s internal audit manager concluded that the local authority has “adequate assurance” that significant risks are addressed.

A total of 189 recommendations were made to address weaknesses in the council’s controls within the areas audited, 97 per cent of which were accepted by town hall management and are set to be implemented.

Cllr David Silbiger described the report to the audit committee as “damning”.

He said: “I must tell you, the report is concerning to me. Pretty much 40 per cent of them are graded inadequate of unsatisfactory so I find it quite hard to marry up the opinion that the significant risks have adequate assurance.

“More concerning is, the ones that are unsatisfactory or inadequate are key issues within the council. The council’s ability to deliver the budget cuts.

“Obviously, we all agree, the budget rests on the council’s ability to deliver these cuts.

“Every year there’s slippage in the council’s ability to deliver these cuts.

“If that’s unsatisfactory,  it definitely wouldn’t give me adequate assurance that significant risks are addressed.

“You’ve got debt assistance being inadequate, you’re got credit payments unsatisfactory, insurance being inadequate, business continuity planning inadequate. I assume that’s even before Covid.

“There’s too many key ones. I appreciate you’re saying 60 per cent is good or adequate.

“To me, 40 per cent is a very large number and the issues that are inadequate or unsatisfactory are more key issues in the council than the 60 per cent that is good or satisfactory.”

Interim deputy chief finance officer Lisa Kitto told the audit committee that the inadequate or unsatisfactory assurances were related to specific services within an audit area and did not represent a problem across the council.

She also said the council’s ability to deliver budget cuts was identified as a major weakness, but the latest saving proposals have been tested thoroughly.

Speaking after the meeting, Conservative leader Cllr Nick Jones said his group has “no confidence” that savings targets, set at £27m, will be achieved by 2025.

He said: “Covid-19 will also have an impact on the finances of Bury MBC.

“The budget passed in February is not fit for purpose and the priorities of the council will need to change to ensure we come through this crisis.

“We need a new budget to refocus the council’s priorities, protect local jobs and kickstart Bury’s economic recovery.”