Bungling council lose £30k in invoice blunder

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That money could have saved a job!

Unions today slammed Blackpool Council after it was forced to write off more than £30,000 in debt – after bosses failed to invoice a company which then went out of business.

The council sold household electrical equipment, textiles and bric-a-brac, which had been discarded at its household waste recycling centre on Bristol Avenue, Bispham, for £31,342.

But months later, it still had not sent out an invoice for the goods.

By the time the council finally pursued the money owed to it, the company had gone into liquidation.

A report to councillors reveals the purchases were made between August and December 2012 but the company, which the council says cannot be named for data protection reasons, went into liquidation in February 2013 “whereby at that stage the council had not raised the invoices.”

The report adds: “By the time the council had been informed the company had gone into liquidation it was too late to put in a claim.”

Union chiefs, who are battling to protect town hall jobs and prevent a pay freeze, today blasted the council for wasting money. Sean Gibson, regional organiser for Unison, said: “Some of the decisions being made by the council have to be questioned.

“That money amounts to somebody’s job, and to hear of this at a time when Unison members and council employees are being asked to plug the gap in spending will anger people.

“Staff are being asked not take incremental pay rises and to pay for car parking.It doesn’t help when things like this come out at times of austerity.”

Jed Sullivan, Unite convenor for Blackpool Council, said: “That money could have kept a youth club open or paid someone’s wages. You could have appointed another social worker for a year.

“But I am not suprised mistakes like this are being made because staff are over-stretched and are being asked to do more and more with less resources.”

Tory councillor Maxine Callow said: “We are a council forever saying we are strapped for cash and can’t do this and that, and yet six months after some company purchased something from the council, they haven’t got an invoice.

“I would like an assurance this sloppy accounting won’t continue.

“Some people might not think £31,000 is a lot of money, but it is to a council like this.

“You could have kept a member of staff employed for a year.”

The goods sold included household items such as kettles, toasters and vacuum cleaners.

Every year Blackpool residents discard more than 600 tonnes of waste electrical equipment at the tip in Bispham.

Items which are too good to dump are reclaimed and restored for sale.

Blackpool Council has since set up its Re-use shop at the Bispham tip which refurbishes items and sells them to raise money for charity.

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said steps had been taken to ensure invoices for council services were now sent out more promptly.

He said: “I agree £31,000 is a phenomenal amount of money. It is deplorable.

“Don’t think I haven’t had serious words with the people involved.”

He added: “The problem is we continued to supply these people despite the fact they weren’t paying and that’s wrong.”

The council says it now invoices people more quickly and stops dealing with companies once a payment has been missed, in order to avoid debts being racked up.

The council is proposing to axe around 700 jobs over the next two years as part of savings of £36m by 2016.

Staff are being asked to accept an increments pay freeze for the next two years to save £1.3m and about 100 jobs.

Last month unions staged a demonstration outside the town hall to protest at the cuts.