SEVENTY-SIX local schools have been sent invoices after a payroll mistake led to them being undercharged for wages for up to four years.

At a meeting of the Bradford Schools Forum yesterday, Bradford Council’s payroll service manager apologised on behalf of the council for the mistake, and was told it will have a “big impact” on the schools facing the biggest bills.

One of the schools involved had been asked to pay back over £70,000 to the council.

The issue came about after a payroll error meant while staff at the schools were paid the correct wages by the council, the authority had not claimed the correct amount back from individual schools.  In some cases the underpayments dated back to 2012.

Members of the forum raised the issue of invoices being sent to various schools at the last meeting, and the council was asked to explain the extent of the problem and how it came about.

Allan Stobbs, manager of the payroll service, attended yesterday’s meeting in City Hall and said: “This was the fault of the payroll service.

“On behalf of the service I apologise. I know this must make the management of school budgets extremely difficult.

“If any school wants to approach me to challenge the invoice or arrange payments then they can do that.

“We don’t expect the schools to pay the balance off straight away, and we can’t force schools to do that.”

He said if schools did refuse to pay, then the council’s director of finance would have to decide what to do.

The council has had “conversations” with all of of the schools involved, and were waiting to hear back from most of them on how they were going to pay back the money, or whether they planned to dispute the invoices.

Although he did not provide details of what individual schools owed, or what the total amount owed the council was, Mr Stobbs said the amount owed by schools ranged from a few hundred pounds to over £70,000 - which was owed by a secondary school.

The forum were told that so far just four schools had started payments.

Dominic Wall, chairman of the committee, said: “It is very disappointing that this has happened, and it will really impact the schools with the highest amounts of money to pay back.”  He asked if any schools would be thrown into financial difficulties because of the invoices, but senior school finance officer Andrew Redding said so far no schools had approached them about any resulting financial problems.

When asked if anyone had been disciplined over the errors, Mr Stobbs said: “We have done a rigorous review, and we now have much more rigorous controls in place.”