Outrage over council cash confession

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A top City of Edinburgh Council officer has admitted that the authority is unlikely to recoup money which was overpaid to staff following a payroll error.

Opposition councilors have hit out at the failures, chiefly with the overpayment of payroll, which could have met the cost of the chief executive’s salary for four years.

They have now called for action to ensure the problems do not happen again.

The council’s director of resources, Stephen Moir, said: “We have sought to reclaim the totality of the sum. It is unlikely we will achieve 100 per cent recovery.

“There may be some specific circumstances where individual reclaim action might be counter-intuitive for the council. Following up with court action might actually be more costly than the sum to be recovered.

“We need to make sure there’s a value for money judgement as well as a risk management one taken.”

Mr Moir said that a new human resources system, which went live last month, will ensure the payroll systems are more effective.

He added: “We have an unduly complicated set of pay arrangements with a whole range of variable payments and something like 5,000 individual shift patterns in operation across the organisation – that makes our payroll unduly complex to administer.”

The majority of the overpaid money relates to current employees. Liberal Democrat Councillor Kevin Lang whose ward covers South Queensferry said: “This is a significant sum of taxpayers’ money which the director now admits is highly unlikely to be recouped in full by the council

“Given the pressures on council budgets, which is affecting even basic services, every penny counts Every effort now needs to be made to recoup as much money as possible. It is even more important to ensure the issues which led to these overpayments are addressed so this cannot happen again.”

Conservative Councillor Phil Doggart said: “It is ridiculous that the council has failed to have processes in place for the payment of money to the correct people.

“It is hard to believe that any organisation in the 21st century has failed to establish such procedures.

The council said  around £213,000 had been recovered so far.A City of Edinburgh Council spokeswoman said: “We have an established and well tested debt recovery policy in place for all debts including payroll overpayments, where these occur.