Kent

Kent County Council pay errors total £1.5m

Nearly 2,000 staff at Kent County Council (KCC) have been overpaid more than £1.5m over the past four years, the BBC has learned.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request to KCC revealed 1,815 people had received more money than they should.

After three cases came to light in the past two months, opposing Lib Dem and Labour members on the Tory-run council called for an inquiry.

KCC, which employs more than 14,000 people, said it tried to be accurate.

The FoI request revealed that between 2008 and 2012, current staff were wrongly overpaid by £1,008,811, and ex-employees were mistakenly paid £555,630.

To date, current employees had repaid £748,661 and ex-employees had repaid £295,957.

'Significant amount'

Labour Councillor Gordon Cowan said: "Kent County Council being a big organisation may think that's a small amount. Well it isn't if you talk to the taxpayers.

"The taxpayers would see that as a significant amount of funding which could be used to keep frontline services and to keep frontline staff in position. To have that amount of money paid out to people, overpaid, is a disgrace."

Darra Farrel, former Kent Youth Council member and now vice-chairman of the British Youth Council, said KCC had recently cut £1m from its youth service and the overpayments could have funded that service.

He added: "The fact that it's been going on for four years is also worrying, without it coming to light. Perhaps we need to question what other misspending is going on at County Hall."

'Few major issues'

Councillor Roger Gough, KCC's cabinet member for business strategy, performance and health reform said: "Clearly these errors should not have happened and we apologise to those individuals for any distress caused.

"While overpayments owed to the council account for significantly less than one percent of payments, or 1 in 1000 people, we understand why this would be of concern to the taxpayers of Kent."

He said KCC worked hard to minimise mistakes and it was human nature that sometimes errors would happen.

He said it was inevitable that some changes to people's circumstances would miss payroll system deadlines, but most mistakes were corrected within days.

Mr Gough added: "Major issues are few and far between and we work hard to put them right by making sure we recover overpayments to staff as soon as possible. Our reclaim rate has been improving strongly in the last few years."

He also said current staff were making repayments but it could be harder to recover overpayment after an employee had left KCC, particularly in the current economic climate.

Last month, it emerged that care worker Sheila Ferris had wrongly received payments of about £15,000 and £6,000. KCC said funds paid to Ms Ferris had been recovered.

In May, it was revealed that allowances intended for KCC leader Paul Carter totalling £21,398 had been paid to a vehicle maintenance fitter with the same name. KCC said human error was to blame.

That month, it also emerged that Diane Warren, a retired care worker from Sutton-at-Hone, had been asked to repay £15,000 paid to her by mistake over 39 months.

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