Council accidentally overpays staff nearly £700,000 over the past year

The amount dished out to Renfrewshire Council employees by mistake has rocketed year-on-year.

Council accidentally overpays staff nearly £700,000 over the past year Google Maps

Renfrewshire Council has accidentally overpaid staff nearly £700,000 over the past year, according to fresh figures.

The amount dished out to employees by mistake has rocketed year-on-year, with more than £2.3m of overpayments made in total since April 2015.

A total of £691,312.85 was given to staff in error in 2020/21, a rise of more than 80% compared to the amount overpaid in 2018/19.

Since April 2015, just over £1.4m has been recovered by the local authority while more than £52,000 has been written off, meaning the council is still scrapping to get back almost £900,000 owed to the public purse.

The startling statistics emerged following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

SNP councillor Kenny MacLaren, who represents Paisley Northwest, said the ongoing issue needs to be looked at closely by local authority bosses.

He said: “This is a concern and it’s something which does need looking at to make sure we have tighter procedures in place.

“That money should be used for public services and where this does happen there should be stronger procedures so we can claw that money back.”

While the amount overpaid to council staff has been continuing to climb each year, there is evidence of a small improvement in the amount recovered.

A total of £409,858.82 was retrieved over the course of 2020/21, the largest amount recorded in the past six years.

It is the council’s policy to recover all overpayments but they can be written off in “exceptional circumstances” by the director of finance, bosses said in response to the FOI request.

Data shows between April 2015 and March 2018, £812,255 was mistakenly handed out to employees. A total of £351,448 was recovered during this three-year spell.

The council said it could not break down figures year-by-year for this period as they were lumped together in an Audit Scotland report.

Between April 2018 and March 2019, overpayments totalling £379,430.75 were received by employees. The council reported £278,613.78 had been recovered during the year.

From April 2019 to March 2020, £463,313.47 was paid out by mistake with £372,640.54 retrieved over the 12 months.

A council spokesman said: “Large, complex organisations like councils will experience salary overpayments, mainly occurring from the delayed notification of an employee’s changes in circumstances.

“Early notification of any such changes is always promoted however, where this is not achieved, we have robust processes in place to monitor any instance of overpayment in order to ensure that recovery action is taken.

“Where an overpayment has been made, recovery will take place over as short a period as possible. The vast majority of overpayments are fully recovered, or repayment arrangements are in place.

“It is the council’s policy to recover all overpayments, however in exceptional circumstances where all recovery action has been exhausted and there is no prospect of the debt being recovered, an overpayment may be written off.”

By local democracy reporter Steph Brawn

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