RENFREWSHIRE Council has had to fork out more than £26,000 in transaction fees for the use of an online school payment system.

The local authority began using ParentPay in 2018/19 to give families an easier and quicker method of paying for kids’ lunches, trips and activities.

Instead of giving youngsters cash for their expenses, the system allows parents to pay directly for them via bank transfer.

But for every transaction that goes through ParentPay, councils are charged fees of up to 1.3%.

In the first year of using the system, the council was charged £4,495 in transaction fees.

But, by 2019/20, that figure had almost tripled, with the local authority paying out more than £12,500.

Between 2018 and 2021, the council was charged £26,273 for parents’ use of the system.

The data came to light following a Freedom of Information request from the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Councillor Andy Doig, who represents Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch as an Independent, wants the local authority to keep tabs on the charges.

“I think it was a good idea to introduce ParentPay," he said. “Any system which stops parents needing to give cash to their children for school, I think, is a positive thing.

“But, on the flip side, there are these extra charges and I think we do need to be keeping a close eye on this.

“It’s been a really useful tool and let’s keep it going but, at the same time, let’s not lose sight of these costs.”

In the latest school year, the council was charged more than £9,000 in transaction fees, with the cost dropping slightly compared to the previous 12 months as the country grappled with coronavirus.

It is anticipated payments could start to decrease following the rollout of free school meals to pupils in P5 to P7.

All P1 to P4 pupils are already entitled to free school meals in Renfrewshire but they will be rolled out to older primary kids during the coming school year.

The council said ParentPay aims to make payments, simpler, easier and more transparent for parents but declined to comment when asked if the system was worth the cost of transaction fees.

A spokesman added: “ParentPay enable parents and carers to pay online for their child’s school trips, events and activities, as well as school meals.”