A TOTAL of £2.6 million has been overpaid to council workers in the past three years.
Administrative errors have seen hundreds of staff receive money they were not entitled to in the last three financial years – including one Brighton and Hove City Council employee who was overpaid by £33,000.
Council officials said nearly all the overpayments were recouped but thousands of pounds remain outstanding.
In the three years from April 2010 to March 2013, Brighton and Hove City Council overpaid 724 members of staff by £1.05 million, West Susssex County Council overpaid 1,317 employees a total of £786,000 and East Sussex County Council paid out £823,000 to 611 employees.
GMB branch secretary Mark Turner said that despite council assurances, recovering overpay could be a long and difficult process and courts couldaward the overpay to employees if they considered they were unknowingly paid too much.
He added: “The amount of money overpaid by Brighton and Hove City Council is astounding.
“It can take years for staff to repay these sums and can be very difficult for them to do so.
“As much as we have overpayment of staff we also have underpayment of staff aswell.”
A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said overpayments were very small with last year’s £198,020 representing just 0.2% of the payroll.
He said £11,962 of “historic”overpayments remained disputed and at risk of not being recovered.
He added: “Overpayments are most commonly due to the temporary absence of a manager, for example, amanager on long-term sickness absence or maternity leave where there has been a delay or problem in providing interim cover arrangements.
“This can result in late notification of changes in the services, for example, someone leaving or reducing their hours, and can therefore result in overpayment.”
AWest Sussex County Council spokeswoman said: “In all cases the county council seeks recoupment, either through enforced means or by agreement.
“A small number of unrecouped overpayments may relate to death in service cases, where discretion can be exercised to write off salary already paid.
“The process for recouping overpaid salary is to write to staff as soon as the overpayment is identified, offering them a suitable repayment instalment plan.
“If the employee has left, an invoice is raised, normally within a month of them leaving, seeking the repayment.”
An East Sussex County Council spokeswoman said: “The majority of overpayments are due to late notification of a change in circumstances.”