‘Impossible and unacceptable’

Lincolnshire County Council offices in Lincoln.
Lincolnshire County Council offices in Lincoln.

A new computer accounting system is continuing to wreak havoc with schools’ finances, six months after it was introduced.

Despite assurances three months ago that the bills blunder with the Aggresso system, brought in by new contractor Serco, was being ironed out, staff at some local schools are still getting paid incorrectly and have to request emergency payments of wages and bills, according to a senior governor.

The company is now facing financial penalties for failing to meet deadlines set.

County councillor for Sleaford West and Leasingham Andrew Hagues said he had last been told everything would be sorted out by the end of August. “Now we are at the end of September and there are still problems,” he said. “The county council is fining Serco for failure to do the whole job satisfactorily.”

Denzil Shepheard is chairman of governors at St Botolph’s School in Quarrington and vice-chairman of governors at St Andrew’s School, Leasingham. He said the situation remained ‘impossible and unacceptable’.

He said on Thursday: “Approximately 10 staff from those schools were not paid or were paid incorrectly or whose contracts are inaccurate.

“It remains impossible for schools to print out accurate budget information even though they were told earlier this year that we must ensure that we do not overspend.

“Without proper records which are reliable and accurate it is not possible for governors to exercise those responsibilities in any meaningful way and one governing body has now written to Lincolnshire County Council refusing to accept budget responsibility until the Aggresso situation is effectively resolved.”

Mr Shepheard said: “Some staff are rightly very angry indeed and are taking legal advice and considering other action such as refusing to work until they are paid and this would directly impact on the education of children – it is action that everyone in school would take very reluctantly.”

Derek Irvine, Serco’s contract director, said yesterday (Tuesday): “The team has been directly in touch with the two affected schools in Sleaford and is working hard to resolve their specific issues. For example, we will be making emergency payments to two employees today. We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused and thank them for their patience.”

He said Serco has been working extremely hard to rectify the problems and minimise impact and, listening to feedback, have created new user forums for school bursars to provide them with ongoing support and advice.