iPads for councillors: Questions and answers put to the council

imagesAs we revealed here last week, Richmondshire District Council plans to issue all councillors with iPads in a bid to turn the council into a paperless office.

It’s a move the council believes will safe money in the long run but has been criticised by some local residents and even some of those local councillors being asked to work in a new way.

The press release and surrounding documentation seemed vague on some points so we asked the council to explain more. Here, in full, are the questions put to the council and the answers provided.

What’s the total cost to the council?
£10,727.00 – one off cost

How many iPads are required?

Are they all being funded by the council or are they the councillors personal devices?
All devices are being funded by – and belong to the Council, for two reasons:
1. The Council’s Public Services Network (PSN) Code of Connection (CoCo) requires us to meet strict security guidelines from Central Government – this is due to the type of information held on our ICT network and which devices attach to the network.

2. Under Data Protection legislation, the Council and Councillors have a duty to ensure that any personal or sensitive information is managed and stored in a secure fashion. Using personal devices leaves the Council (and individual Councillors) open to significant fines or sanctions from the Information Commissioners Office should that device be compromised.

If the former, it would be unlikely that councillor Peacock’s statement about comparative costs is correct – laptops are far cheaper than ipads these days……..what research was carried out to compare cost?
The iPads work out cheaper than laptops given we purchase robust, serviceable models with a specification and processing power to last for at least a Councillor’s term of office. We have found that the cheaper laptops are not fit for purpose and break easily, causing the user to be without equipment while it is being repaired or replaced (which is also costly). The additional software required for installation adds significantly to this cost. We also need to encrypt the laptops, install anti-virus software and add virtual private network (VPN) software on them to allow secure access to the ICT network.

What is it about iPads versus laptops that enables the councillors to do their jobs more easily?
Ease of use: the devices are easy to use and are very intuitive. Touch screen technology and a wide range of accessibility features in the iOS operating system makes them suitable for most people.
Size and portability: the iPad is compact, light and have much longer battery life.

There’s also this curious paragraph: “There may also be the potential for further savings be made to ICT budgets as the figures in Appendix 2 demonstrate that the cost of a new iPad is £315.50 compared with £700 for a new lap top. Any savings arising under ICT budgets will be reported in year as and when they are made.”

More savings will be made due to the fact we will not supply printers, cartridges and paper to Members which was done previously.

Are the councillors perhaps buying second hand iPads?
The Apple iPad’s are the iPad Air 16g version not the latest iPad Air 2 16g.
All iPads are bought brand new and come with a 3 year warranty. The costs are broken down below

Council splashes out thousands on ‘compulsory’ iPads

Richmondshire District Council is spending thousands of pounds buying iPads for members in a move intended to make the council a paperless office.

The technology, which costs between £319 and £659 depending on the exact model, is being provided to members whether they want it or not – and even if they already own their own equipment.There are a total of 34 councillors.

And when councillors sat down to discuss funding yesterday evening, it appeared they had already started using the iPads which have yet to be approved with a full council decision.

The move was announced in a press release yesterday which emphasised the potential cost savings of cutting down on printed reports – but didn’t reveal the actual costs involved in the purchases.

The press statement, which you can read in full here, said:

All councillors will in future work through iPads rather than using paper copies of agendas and minutes. Not only will the move save the authority money, it will also make sure the council is fully compliant with legislation.

“These changes mean we can make on-going efficiency savings through the reduction in the need for laptops and the hardware that go with them – as well as saving costs from printing,” said Council Leader, Councillor Yvonne Peacock.

“And iPads give us the flexibility to access our emails, committee papers and other information from anywhere with a wireless connection – as well as using them at meetings.”

The iPads have been rolled out following an initial trial with six members proved successful – with all members now on line.

“We expect savings off(sic) around £20,000 a year through this system,” added Councillor Peacock.

“And with the cost of replacing an ipad considerably less than replacing a laptop this saving will only get greater. It forms part of our four year financial strategy to deliver savings, balance the budget and keep council tax low.”

Councillors at work

Councillors at work

The decision to move to iPads followed a report by officers to the Corporate Board earlier this week which put forward a scenario where iPads would be cheaper than issuing laptops which they estimated would cost £700 per councillor.

The report claimed: “There may also be the potential for further savings be made to ICT budgets as the figures in Appendix 2 demonstrate that the cost of a new iPad is £315.50 compared with £700 for a new laptop. Any savings arising under ICT budgets will be reported in year as and when they are made.”

But even the most basic of web searches shows that the price of an average laptop is well below the £700 which the council is basing its spending decisions on. This is something we have put to the council’s press office and will update this story when we have a reply.

The report also fails to take into account that some councillors already have their own equipment which could be used for council work.


Stuart Parsons

One of those unhappy with the moves is Richmond west councillor Stuart Parsons. He has used his own laptop for council business at both the district and county level since 2007 and would prefer to continue that way.

He said he didn’t want the council to have control over his choice of communications device and didn’t see any need for the new equipment.

But he believes he will be locked out of important information by refusing to be part of the project being introduced by the Tory administration.

“When we were elected as councillor, there was nothing to say we had to work a particular way,” he added.

The full council will be asked to ratify the iPad purchases and the new way of working at the full council on Tuesday 20 October.

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