Council splashes out thousands on ‘compulsory’ iPads

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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.

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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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