THE leader of Scarborough Council has hit back at criticism over plans to give councillors state-of-the-art iPads.
Speaking during yesterday afternoon’s debate at the Town Hall, Cllr Tom Fox defended the move, claiming an Evening News online poll, where more than 100,000 responses were registered in opposition to the proposal, had created a “frenzy”.
It was the biggest response ever to any issue of any kind and was supplemented by letters and other views.
Cllr Fox said he did not give such polls, or the views of anonymous bloggers, any credibility.
Cllr Fox added the switch from printed agendas would create considerably higher annual savings than had previously been stated – £53,000 instead of £10,000 – and would be made on a number of areas including salary, printing costs, materials and postage.
And, because the authority is buying 70 iPads in total - including units for council officers - they will work out at £160 each.
He added that members could make a donation to offset the cost but ownership of the individual iPads would remain with the council.
Cllr Brian Watson asked why the existing laptops could not be used for the same purpose, to which Cllr Fox replied that the laptops were slow and it was difficult to make notes on the electronic documents.
He added: “The iPad allows you to write on it with a pen and add comments.”
But Cllr Janet Jefferson, who had publicly said she would buy her own iPad before the meeting, said now was not the right time because of the economic climate and programme of cuts.
She said: “I am not opposed to technology and I have got my own computer. But if we are going to have one I don’t think the tax payer should pay for it.”
Cllr Bill Chatt said: “This is not about giving us something to play chess on – that is not what they are intended for.”
Cllr Dilys Cluer said that if councillors wanted iPads they should pay for them themselves, adding: “I personally don’t want one but I can see the savings to the council.”
But Cllr Pat Marsburg asked for a recorded vote. She said, while she did not disagree with it, it was not the right move during the current economic climate.
Cllr Andrew Jenkinson said he had faced a lot of hostility from members of the public.
Cllr Amanda Robinson said that Cllr Fox had finally got his message across at yesterday’s meeting.
She said: “He hasn’t got his message across to the borough.
“I feel so sad that an opportunity has been missed and the message hasn’t got through to the general public. I can’t vote for this because of that.”
Cllr Joe Plant asked whether there would have been the same outcry if they were proposing replacing old laptops.
The vote was recorded with the iPad eight voting against the move but the vast majority of councillors were in favour of it.
The issue attracted attention from both main TV channels, ITV and BBC.
Within minutes of the vote, public comments poured in.
Darren Trapps wrote: “So most people in the area said they didn’t agree with this and the councillors voted it in. Does this not tell you they do what they want?”
Another said: “Someone at central government must see this as a blatant misuse of taxpayers’ money, despite the democratic issues. The councillors receive an allowance for expenses, why don’t they pay for them out of that?”
Another said: “Yay! These devices are thoroughly deserved by the council ...
“Oops, sorry, I am talking rubbish again.”