Scottish councils are paying out a whole lot of 1000’s of kilos a yr in funds to know-how corporations which course of mother and father’ on-line funds for college bills reminiscent of lunches.
Sunday, 31st Could 2020, 7:45 am
At the least 26 of 32 native authorities in Scotland use software program programs reminiscent of ParentPay and iPay to facilitate on-line funds for college meals, journeys and different paid-for actions or sensible lessons reminiscent of residence economics.
As an alternative of paying in cash, leaving academics and workplace employees to course of particular person funds, the web sites permit households to pay straight utilizing bank transfers. Nevertheless, colleges are charged transaction charges of as much as 1.three per cent on every fee.
In keeping with data obtained by Scotland on Sunday below Freedom of Info laws, 18 native authority areas paid a complete of £385,505, with the overall annual price of transactions starting from £1,972 in West Dunbartonshire to greater than £100,000 in Renfrewshire.
Just one council – Aberdeen Metropolis – failed to offer the data. Ten others acknowledged that they did use a web-based fee system, however stated they may or wouldn’t present particulars of the quantity paid to the software program firm. Three councils – Glasgow Metropolis, North Lanarkshire and West Lothian – stated they didn’t use such a system.
Renfrewshire Council paid out greater than £102,000 to ParentPay within the final faculty yr, though it insisted £97,742 of the overall was prices referring to organising the system and rolling it out. Neighbouring East Renfrewshire forked out £48,235, East Ayrshire paid greater than £35,000, and Scottish Borders paid £36,129.
Native authorities say the system makes it simpler for folks to pay their bills, leading to fewer excellent payments.
Midlothian Council – which spent £11,623 on ParentPay transaction charges – stated: “The commission paid to ParentPay is more than offset by the reduction in staff time and resources (printing of letters etc) involved in managing trips, events and other chargeable activities.”
In keeping with the Scottish Authorities’s Scotland Excel procurement group, which six years in the past developed an “Online School Payments framework” to assist colleges transfer funds on-line, Scotland’s native authority colleges acquire greater than £120 million a yr for college meals, journeys and different purchases reminiscent of uniforms and transport.
For colleges, native authorities, caterers and different faculty service suppliers, the price of processing cash and cheque transactions is estimated to be 4.5 per cent – greater than thrice the charge charged by on-line suppliers.
Jamie Greene, Scottish Conservative schooling spokesman, stated: “While the convenience of these systems is understandable budgets the high cost of this appears to undermine its benefit – something public procurement should have taken account of.”
In some areas, the native authorities additionally pay licence charges to the service supplier.
In Inverclyde, charges on any discretionary actions paid for via a web-based system, reminiscent of journeys, exhibits and college proms, are added to the price and handed on to folks. They complete £7,786.
Moray stated it had paid £8,167 over the past educational yr, with the bulk coming straight from the native authority’s price range. The remaining £711 was paid by particular person faculty budgets.
Whereas some colleges cross a part of the price of the transaction on to folks, others fund the prices out of their budgets and others are paid straight by the native authority’s personal funds.
Some councils stated they had been unable to offer a determine because the transaction charges had been paid to banks quite than the fee corporations.
Edinburgh Council refused to produce the data, on the grounds that it has a “fixed price provision from its outsourced IT provider”. It does use ParentPay for transactions together with faculty lunches and journeys.
Renfrewshire Council didn’t reply to requests for remark.