RENFREWSHIRE Council has accidentally overpaid staff nearly £700,000 over the past year, latest figures show.

The amount dished out to employees by mistake has rocketed year-on-year, with more than £2.3million of overpayments made since April 2015.

A total of £691,313 was given to staff in error in 2020/21 – a rise of more than 80 per cent compared to the amount overpaid in 2018/19.

Since April 2015, just over £1.4m has been recovered by the local authority, while more than £52,000 has been written off, meaning the council is still trying to claw back almost £900,000 owed to the public purse.

The startling statistics emerged following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Councillor Kenny MacLaren said the matter must be looked at closely by local authority bosses.

“This is a concern and it’s something which does need looking at to make sure we have tighter procedures in place,” added the SNP man, who represents Paisley Northwest.

“That money should be used for public services and, where this does happen, there should be stronger procedures so we can claw that money back.”

While the amount overpaid to council staff has been continuing to climb each year, there is evidence of a small improvement in the amount recovered.

A total of £409,859 was retrieved over the course of 2020/21 – the largest amount recorded in the past six years.

It is the council’s policy to recover all overpayments but they can be written off in “exceptional circumstances” by the director of finance, bosses said.

Data shows that, between April 2015 and March 2018, a total of £812,255 was mistakenly handed out to employees. Around £350,000 was recovered during this three-year spell.

The council said it could not break down figures year-by-year for this period as these were lumped together in an Audit Scotland report.

Between April 2018 and March 2019, overpayments totalling £379,431 were received by employees, with the council able to recover £278,614.

From April 2019 to March 2020, the council paid out £463,313 by mistake, with £372,641 later retrieved.

A council spokesman said: “Large, complex organisations like councils will experience salary overpayments, mainly occurring from the delayed notification of an employee’s changes in circumstances.

“Early notification of any such changes is always promoted. However, where this is not achieved, we have robust processes in place to monitor any instance of overpayment in order to ensure that recovery action is taken.

“Where an overpayment has been made, recovery will take place over as short a period as possible. The vast majority of overpayments are fully recovered or repayment arrangements are in place.

“It is the council’s policy to recover all overpayments. However, in exceptional circumstances where all recovery action has been exhausted and there is no prospect of the debt being recovered, an overpayment may be written off.”