Students facing court over payment blunder

Former Lytham St Annes High pupils who have been employed as school cleaners have been overpayed - and have now been threatened with court action by the county council. L-R James Perry, Lewis Thompson and David Rothwell.
Former Lytham St Annes High pupils who have been employed as school cleaners have been overpayed - and have now been threatened with court action by the county council. L-R James Perry, Lewis Thompson and David Rothwell.
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Students employed as cleaners at Fylde’s largest school are facing possible court action after council chiefs claimed the youngsters were overpaid.

It is thought 15 to 20 Lytham St Annes High School students – many awaiting A-Level results –have received letters from Lancashire County Council demanding immediate repayments of up to £2,000 after they were paid at the wrong rate.

The students are asked to log into the Oracle payment system, used by casual education staff across the county, to input their hours each week, which is operated by BT for Lancashire County Council.

The process involves inputting a code to determine the rate of pay – something the students say they were not shown how to do properly, resulting in overpayments that have mounted up over the months.

Three students spoke on behalf of the group affected.

Lewis Thompson, 19, from St Annes, said: “I cannot understand how, as a group, we have all been able to get into this position. I’m being told to pay back around £600 from the past year – but why hasn’t it been checked before now?

“I was shown by a colleague how to log into the system.”

David Rothwell, 19, from St Annes, added: “I finished a year ago and didn’t get a letter until six months after. I understood that this would be checked by a supervisor and don’t know how they didn’t pick up on this.

“Why didn’t they check the codes we put in were correct? We could have re-entered the information as we went along.”

And James Perry, 19, from St Annes said: “I’ve just left college and I think it’s ridiculous.

“We’ve had exam pressure on us and then this as well – I just don’t know what to do.

“I worked for around a year and nine months, so quite a bit more than the others.

“We used to get paid monthly,so I’ve no idea why they’ve waited so many months to tell us.”

The students, who all earn minimum wage, have all been sent letters from the county council demanding repayment of the money.

It’s understood one student has been overpaid around £2,000, with many others around the £500 mark.

The students are concerned overpayments were not noted for months, despite logging into the system on a monthly basis to input their hours. Peter Webster, business manager at Lytham High, said: “We’ve been employing sixth formers as casual cleaners for some years now.

“It’s a practice that is very popular among the students and we have a waiting list.

“They gain valuable job experience as well as earning extra cash.

“In January we investigated a number of factors relating to the submission of online time sheets that had resulted in some of our casual staff, including student cleaners, being overpaid.

“As is normal practice, our payroll provider sent out letters to them explaining the overpayment and the action required.

“We’ve now reviewed our procedures and provided additional training to ensure this does not happen again.

“This has been an unfortunate time for all concerned but we are duty-bound to recover the overpayments, which after all are public money.”

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