iPads save as laptops are kept

I pad Council story. Picture Richard Ponter. 120317b
I pad Council story. Picture Richard Ponter. 120317b
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The much debated introduction of iPads for councillors will save taxpayers nearly £14,000 claims the authority as it admits letting its members keep their old laptops and printers.

In a report to Scarborough Council’s audit committee earlier this week councillors heard a full break down of the costs of introducing the tablet devices against the predicted spending relating to the previous regime of laptops, printers and paper agendas.

However while the move may save almost £100,000 by March 2014, the authority has admitted that councillors have been allowed to keep their old laptops and printers.

In response to a Freedom of Information Request, asking what has happened to the old equipment now the iPads have been dished out, Gill Wilkinson, democratic and administrative services manager at the council, said: “The laptops and printers used by councillors were due to be replaced in the near future by ICT as their age was making them obsolete.

“As councillors were issued with iPads these upgrades did not take place.

“The council then had a choice whether to remove obsolete laptops from the councillors or allow them to keep the laptops but without ICT support.

“If the council removed the aging laptops and printers, these would not normally be reusable by other officers or groups, they would also require data cleansing and re-provisioning, which can take between two to four hours of officer time per laptop. It was not therefore feasible to remove and re-use these laptops.

“The 26 members who have a laptop supplied by the council have thus been given the choice of retaining the laptop and printer if supplied, at their own expense and with no support, and councillors have signed to say that they will not seek ICT support for these items.”

Ms Wilkinson said the laptops will remain the property of Scarborough Council and when the laptop fails, or when a councillor ceases their role, they will be returned to the council for decommissioning.

The cost for the 50 councillor iPads and accessories was £9,125, half the £22,250 that would have been spent on replacement laptops and printers – saving £13,125. The £27,000 cost of the 3G contracts for the iPads over two years is higher than the £25,500 broadband allowances over the same period. However an estimated £81,236 in savings will have been made by March 2014 on printing and postage.

Meanwhile the council’s move towards paperless council meetings has been closely watched by representatives from other local authorities.

There has even been interest from a local authority in New Zealand.

The council’s strategic director, Hilary Jones, said: “I’m very pleased at the way councillors have embraced this new technology as we attempt to make significant budget savings.

“Adapting has not been easy for some of them, but I commend their determination and enthusiasm and as a result there was a real milestone moment at Full Council earlier this month when every councillor in attendance was using their iPad to access documents.”

The move to bring in tablet devices was agreed by councillors in February of this year.

Training for councillors almost completed by the end of August and by the Full Council meeting in September, 80 per cent of councillors were exclusively using their device to access documents and did not bring printed agendas to the meeting.

The Full Council meeting on November 5 was a milestone for the authority as it was the first moment every councillor in attendance used their tablet device to read documents.