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Government PC cock-up leaves teachers owed £9 million

£15 sweetener offered

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A Government cock-up over a computer subsidy scheme has left British teachers up to £9 million out of pocket.

The Computers for Teachers scheme was launched by Junior Education Minister Michael Wills to a fanfare back in January.

"The digital age presents great opportunities to business, to society - and to education. But going online has not always been an easy option for teachers. Computers for Teachers is designed to give teachers real support to bring the education superhighway within their reach," he trumpeted.

The scheme offered cashback on half the cost of a new computer - up to a maximum of £500. Twenty-one PC vendors were earmarked to sell the PCs and notebooks, including Tiny Computers, Evesham Micros, Viglen and Centerprise.

However, it seems the £500 sweetener was just too tempting for cash-strapped teachers (and their friends and family, probably), and the Government was swamped with 27,000 applications. The scheme ran until 30 April, but around 18,000 teachers were still waiting for their repayments at the start of this week - an unpaid bill of £9 million.

In a Commons written reply, Wills admitted: "The scale of the response has unfortunately meant that there have been delays in processing payments," adding his department "very much regrets these delays".

Luke Ireland, a director at Evesham Micros - which sold 3500 computers under the scheme - commented: "I think the Government underestimated the desire of teachers to get hold of PCs. This proves the scheme's merit, but also shows that the Government needed to put more cash into it."

Today a representative for the scheme said that everyone who applied for the rebate before 12 May will be paid tomorrow. The remainder of the backlog - around 10,000 rebates - will be cleared by the end of the month. The 18,000 teachers who have waited longer than four weeks after their application to be paid are also being promised a generous hand-out from the Government.

OK, we lied. They'll get an extra £15. ®

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