County Council in bills blunder

Lincolnshire County Council.
Lincolnshire County Council.

The county council is still getting to grips with glitches in a new accounting system, three months after introduction, which has caused wrong payments of wages and bills.

The county council is still getting to grips with glitches in a new accounting system, three months after introduction, which has caused wrong payments of wages and bills.

The chaos has seen staff in schools and other council services have to request emergency payments after wages were under paid. Suppliers have been calling to demand unpaid bills from the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership and even the water bill had not been paid for the fire service.

Judith Hetherington Smith, chief information and commissioning officer at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “The issues with the new system have caused problems in making payments on time, and we thank all of our affected suppliers and employees for their patience. The council has apologised to staff and suppliers for the problems. We have also made sure that special payments have been made to staff to avoid financial hardship and the schools finance team are providing extra support to schools with managing their budgets. Where suppliers have made us aware that bills have not been paid, we have made emergency payments.”

She said teams were working to put things right as quickly as possible and hoped to have all outstanding payments made by the end of June. They would then look to see if anything could have been done differently.

Denzil Shepheard, vice-chairman of governors at St Andrew’s School in Leasingham wanted answers after months of problems.

He said the new accounting system had been installed at the school on the council’s recommendation: “We were expecting one or two teething problems but this is well beyond that. People are asking if it is fit for purpose.”

He said: “Suppliers are not receiving purchase orders or not being paid. Our budget is not even on the system yet.”

Helen Stokes, branch secretary for Unison trade union said there were still major issues.

They included staff payments, pension contributions, union subscriptions and travel expenses.

She understood work was being done to resolve it quickly but it was still stressful.

She said: “A family member didn’t receive £700 of her wages this month when she has a family and bills to pay.”

County councillor for Sleaford West, Andrew Hagues said members would be demanding answers.

He said “If you are on a lower pay grade it can be critical. If you are a small business supplying the council that cash flow is vital.

“I think the county council is only just beginning to get a handle on this.”

He saw it as ‘disappointing’ that warning signs from other councils introducing the system had not been recognised.