New accounts system causes pay problems

Lincolnshire County Council offices in Lincoln
Lincolnshire County Council offices in Lincoln
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County council chiefs are still getting to grips with glitches in a new computerised accounting system, three months after it was installed, which has caused wrong payments of wages and bills.

The bills blunder has seen staff in schools and other council-run 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 Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Lincolnshire County Council’s chief information and commissioning officer Judith Hetherington Smith said: “Most organisations experience short-term problems when they implement any new system, because often the issues can’t be fully anticipated until the transition takes place.

“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 on the systems and processes to put things right as quickly as possible, and the backlog is clearing.

“We hope to have all outstanding payments made by the end of June,” she said. “When the system is working fully we will of course look back at the overall effect and see if anything could have been done differently.”

Unison trade union branch secretary Helen Stokes said there were still major issues with staff payments, pensions, union subscriptions, overtime and travel expenses where some officers were two months in arrears to a significant amount.

She understood work was being done to quickly resolve the issues with the new accounting system but it was still stressful for staff, saying: “A family member didn’t receive £700 of her wages this month - that is half her salary - when she has a family with bills to pay. Lots of people have serious under payments. Other companies have been paid two or three times for one service and it will be a struggle to get that money back.”

Mrs Stokes questioned why a back-up system had not been in place, as some of the changes to fix the system had apparently compounded the problem, corrupting other information.