Serco boss apologises for Lincolnshire school payment errors

Sean Hanson of Serco
Image caption Sean Hanson of Serco said the problems were "not too big" for the company to deal with

A company has apologised to schools in Lincolnshire after failing to pay bills which left staff without wages and phone lines cut.

Serco won a £70m contract in April 2015 to take over HR and finance support for Lincolnshire County Council.

The company's errors meant teachers could not teach as they should, according to one headteacher.

Sean Hanson from Serco apologised when he met around 40 teachers from the region's schools earlier.

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In March, school governor Terry Boston said Winchelsea Primary School in Ruskington had its phone lines cut after payments were missed by Serco.

He said the action could have put pupils at risk.

At other schools, staff wages were unpaid and sanitary facilities and waste equipment repossessed.

Sally-Anne Caunter, head of Barkston and Syston C of E Primary, said: "If I don't know how much money I've got, I don't know what resources I can buy.

Image caption Sally-Anne Caunter of Barkston and Syston C of E Primary School in Grantham said Serco's errors had meant teachers could not teach as they should

"I can budget for how much I think I should have, but if a member of staff asks for a resource I can't say 'yes' because I don't know if I've got any spare money."

Staff wages unpaid

Serco provides a wide range of public services and has four years left of its contract with Lincolnshire County Council,

Speaking after the meeting, Serco boss Sean Hanson said the problems were "not too big" for the company to handle.

Image caption Serco won the £70m five-year contract from Lincolnshire County Council in April 2015

"Clearly we have experienced a number of difficulties with the contract and we're very committed to making sure things are improved as quickly as possible," he said.

"As an organisation we intend to fix things."

Judith Hetherington Smith, of Lincolnshire County Council, said: "Serco is making progress in resolving the difficulties implementing the new finance system and we are working closely with them to monitor this and ensure they deliver their outstanding commitments.

"We will keep this under review to ensure that this remains the most sensible approach.

"There are service credits built into our contract with Serco.

"If the performance does not meet the levels we have set, we invoke these service credits and when this occurs we do not pay the full contract price each month."

Serco hit the headlines in 2013 when, along with G4S, it lost tagging contracts following allegations it charged the government for tagging people who were either dead or in jail.

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