Wolverhampton City Council owes £6 million in computer glitch

Wolverhampton City Council owes £6 million in unpaid bills to West Midland subcontractors after a backlog in a new computer system left thousands of invoices unsettled, it can be revealed today.

Wolverhampton's Civic Centre
Wolverhampton's Civic Centre

The council has not paid around 3,500 invoices charged to the authority, with some dating back as late as March.

One businessman told how he is owed £250,000 alone.

The council's £8.3 million Agresso computer system went live on April 1, with chiefs saying it would save millions in the long run.

It meant shutting down its 30-year-old 'mainframe' system for a week before the switchover, but has caused a backlog of thousands of unpaid invoices.

Council bosses today said they anticipated problems with the system, but admitted no warning was sent out to companies about the possible delays in payments.

Mark Taylor, assistant director finance, said: "It was inevitable there were going to be difficulties with an organisation of this size and there were likely to be disruptions but I don't think we could have done a better job.

"The companies we dealt with were aware of the change of system and most were savvy and knew there may be disruptions with invoices."

Mr Taylor added: "We delivered the system on budget and on time. We believe that April 1 was the correct time to introduce the system because it was cleaner and meant we had one financial year on one system as opposed to two."

The council says it deals with 160,000 invoices a year at a cost of around £360 million.

It averages 30,000 invoices per month which equates to £30 million.

Civic Centre bosses said that they would prioritise businesses who need payment the most.

Lisa Taylor, who is the hub manager at the council, said: "We have experienced delays in payments to some of our suppliers and we would like to apologise for that. We are very sorry for any impact it may have caused because our suppliers are very important to us. We have been in contact with them every day. We will look to pay those who require urgent payment as a priority. This will be considered by how much is owed and for how long they have been without payment."

Agresso is provided by London-based firm Agilisys, which is helping with the implementation of the system.

Wolverhampton City Council says that they will recoup the cost of Agresso within three years and make a £3.4 million saving for each year after, on the computer and back-office system.

Comments for: "Wolverhampton City Council owes £6 million in computer glitch"

christine.rose.96995

No wonder small businesses are going under when people are owed large amounts

Stanna

Just be two weeks late paying your council tax and you will have a letter through the door. Any later and you will be harassed to within an inch of your life.

Quote - "It was inevitable there were going to be difficulties with an organisation of this size and there were likely to be disruptions but I don't think we could have done a better job.

DOUBLE STANDARDS!!!

All4Wednesfield

So terms of payment on suppliers or contractors invoices don't seem to mean much to the Council. A business might only be owed £1,000 but non payment could cripple their cash flow and send it under or mean they have to borrow from their bankers and incur extra costs. The Council should absolutely ensure that they pay all those outstanding debts straight away.

still in denial

business as usual then?

BurnhamChris

Wonder what would happen if it were The Council who were owed the money - Oh yes, of course they would refer take offenders to Court !

charlie.bear.5836

"The council's £8.3 million Agresso computer system went live on April 1"

How appropriate!

Their incompetence knows no bounds.

mark.s.jones.5

Perhaps the creditors who are owed the 6 million should take a joint court order out against the council or the Wolverhampton Labour Party and just see how long before the bills are paid -

Happy_baggie

Good system - saved £6 million in just 2 months....

Seriously tho - how does a council run up £6 mill in contractor bills in just 8 weeks ??? Probably paying £14 for a light bulb.

funny old world

More Labour incompetence.

Jacko

Delay the salaries of the Finance Director and his deputy by the same amount of time as the longest overdue invoice .

Have these buffoons never hear of parallel running of IT systems until you are sure the bugs have been cleared, before going over to the new system ? If not, they should be in the job.

wolfnut

Did the salaries get paid on time?

Mtaylor

The Express and Star have my contact details so if they would care to share with me the details of the Businessman who claims to have£250,000 overdue I will ensure that this is dealt with asap.

As stated in the article we would like to apologise to all suppliers who have been affected by any delay in the payment of any of their invoices.

In addition I would like to take the opportunity to confirm that we are working very hard to clear the backlog as soon as we possibly can. However, if any suppliers, particularly small and local suppliers, have sent us any invoices which are now overdue and this is causing them any difficulty, they should contact us in the usual way. We will then ensure that we prioritise and expedite the payment of these invoices in particular.

We look forward to continuing to work closely and productively with our suppliers for the mutual benefit of our City and our citizens.

Mark Taylor

Assistant Director Finance

Wolverhampton City Council

markie

Good for you for replying.

The annoying thing is that non payment of council tax is still a criminal offence. About the only debt that still is criminal. If non payment of invoices were treated the same way it would be a more level playing field.

charlie17

Very brave to show who you are but what is an "Assistant Director" and what does the Director do that his Assistant does not. How many Assistant Directors, Managers and Assistant Managers are responsible for what number of staff in the Finance part of the City Council?. Bet no one replies.

BurnhamChris

Many Businesses are pushed over the Financial edge by the late payment of Invoices which ultimately affects their Cash Flow. This also has a knock-effect on their Employees and can result in Liquidation etc. Trust me I know as I have been there. An apology from a Council Official is welcome, but inadequate. It's maybe time that Mr. Pickles became involved in this scenario.

davidelkington

It's all well and good saying the problem is being worked on and you will prioritise suppliers who are in difficulty as a consequence, etc., but in the implementation of any major system there is a communications plan - and that plan should have included at least informing your suppliers, especially those with open orders, that they might experience delayed payment due to a system change. As many people have said, the council would t tolerate none payment of council tax (which you could effectively consider as an invoice for the general public).

Also, delivering a project on time and on budget is only one of many measures of success - if one of the desired outcomes of this project was to continue paying suppliers on time (which it certainly should have been) that's obviously gone off course. Surely these issues should have been picked up during testing and remedied then rather than when the platform was live? If the issues are being caused by users inexperience of the system then obviously a training gap exists that also should have been identified.

I appreciate that all implementations have niggles - having just gone through a similar project (ironically to get rid of agresso) I know that replacing a finance system is a major headache, but it is possible to do it correctly. Even on a limited budget, even with tight timescales, with the correct controls in place and sufficient management problems can be mitigated. To not pay invoices for two months though in excess of six million, I'd say that's a pretty significant failure.

As I said, on time and on budget doesn't equal a successful project if it doesn't actually work.

Btw, are the invoices of the supplier assisting in the implementation included in the £6 million backlog or are they one of the suppliers it's working for?

colindbaggie

Appologies are no good to them, you do not accept appologies off people late with their council tax. After one week you threaten with court action and bailiffs. Sauce for the goose.

colindbaggie

ps. I bet it doesnt happen again, not till the naxt time anyway.

Ricky Tee

You voted them back in, we only have ourselves to blame, jobs for the boys I say! Hit them with ccj's! #itsoourwolverhampton

colindbaggie

Should be taken to court and threatend with bailiffs like they do to the general public if you are a week behind with rent or council tax.