EXTERNAL auditors expressed concerns that council officers did not respond quickly enough to questions and challenges.

Herefordshire Council's Audit and Governance Committee considered a report from the council’s external auditor, Grant Thornton, on the audit findings for the year ending March 31, 2017.

The auditors said the draft accounts were not compliant with the requirements of the CIPFA Code of Practice in some key areas and expected their concerns to be addressed in the revised draft.

Officers were also told that they needed to demonstrate compliance with the accounting requirements and disclosure requirements of the code.

The auditors also said that in order to improve arrangements for the next tax year the council needs to respond in a more timely manner to audit questions and challenges.

The audit report said: "The audit could have been completed earlier had officers in the council been more engaged in the audit and committed to resolving matters when raised."

Officers were also told to "challenge and quality review the information provided by third parties, in particular property values, before including it in the accounts."

Cllr Roger Phillips said he was concerned about the failings in the accounts finalisation process. He said: "Finalising your accounts is something a local authority does every year - the timetable is getting tighter and we recognise that."

But he said the officers would have known it was coming.

He said: "With failings in the account finalisation process I start to get a bit concerned it isn't just a one item issues. There is something within the organisation that needs to be acted upon."

Chief finance officer, Andrew Lovegrove, started in his position in March and he said there were a number of procedural issues.

However, the auditors said the council had proper arrangements in all significant respects to ensure it delivered value for money in its use of resources.