Leeds & West Yorkshire

Bradford schools firm Serco urged to forego incentive payment

The company which ran Bradford's schools for 10 years is being urged to give up its claim for a final performance-related payment.

The National Union of Teachers claims Serco only met targets after they had been lowered by Bradford Council.

But Serco said incentive payments were "only paid if the agreed performance targets had been achieved".

The council said its targets had altered during the term of the contract due to changing priorities.

Kath Tunstall, Bradford Council's strategic director for children and young people's services, said the council had agreed an incentive-based contract with Serco with the aim of achieving high educational standards.

'Different priorities'

"The targets set and the scope of the contract changed over the lifetime of the contract in response to different priorities for education at a national level and to respond to local needs," she said.

"This means when certain specified targets were met, the council was contractually obliged to pay Serco for meeting them."

Serco took over Bradford's schools in 2000 after the district's educational services were criticised by Ofsted.

The firm was paid to raise educational standards in Bradford, with incentive payments made to the firm by the council if annually-agreed targets were achieved such as improved exam results or better attendance figures.

In 2001-2 Serco received an incentive payment of £8,450 The payments rose to a peak of £923,607 in 2003-4.

The payments to Serco dropped to about £0.5m in the remaining years of the contract, with its final payment for 2010-11 still to be calculated by Bradford Council.

'Agreed targets'

Ian Murch, from the National Union of Teachers in Bradford, said Serco should reconsider its claim for its last incentive payment.

He said: "The original targets were never achieved and have still not been achieved.

"So there has been a constant process of the company coming back to the council and asking for the targets to be made easier so they can achieve them."

A Serco spokesman said: "Full contractual payment in any given year was dependent on Serco meeting agreed performance targets.

"The use of deferred incentive payments within the fixed price ten-year contract reflected the council's priority outcomes."

No bonuses or supplementary benefits were ever paid to Serco by Bradford Council, he added.

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