Council defends switch to iPads

I pad Council story. Picture Richard Ponter. 120317b
I pad Council story. Picture Richard Ponter. 120317b

COUNCILLORS have approved a move to switch from printed agendas to state-of-the-art iPads.

Members of Scarborough Council’s Cabinet voted in favour of the plans, which would see all 50 councillors equipped with the hi-tech devices, but the move will need to be given final approval by the full council next month before it is introduced.

The latest version of iPad can cost more than £400 but it is claimed they will save the authority around £10,000 a year on printing and postage costs – as well as offering instant access to additional information when needed.

Currently, agendas for council meetings are produced in paper format and posted to councillors.

Ian Anderson, the council’s head of legal and support services, said members could already request computers and claim an allowance for broadband access, but printing agenda documents created a lot of additional cost.

He added that additional costs, such as postage and envelopes, soon added up to almost £10,000 every year.

Mr Anderson said that he considered a wide variety of models and an iPad-type device seemed to offer the best value.

He said: “Apps are developed continually for that device.”

He added that members could carry agendas on the iPads and documents could be easily highlighted and annotated during meetings.

In his report Mr Anderson said that, despite the council making the information available online, paper copies were still sent out to members for use at meetings and until recently issues regarding battery life or software issues had restricted the potential use of computers at meetings.

The report also highlighted software developments within the local government market, as well as reduced costs for hardware and broadband access, had bridged the gap between computers and paper.

Cllr Penny Marsden said there would be long term savings produced by the move, adding: “I’m not going to say that it’s going to be terribly easy – it’s something that we will have to work through.

“Members need to be trained and confident to use them.”

Council leader Tom Fox said he had been using an iPad since last month and found it extremely useful. He said: “There are certain limitations with it but we are overcoming them.”