Councillors to be given free ipads and laptops?
By thepickler | Friday, February 03, 2012, 13:28
CASHSTRAPPED North Somerset Council could issue all of its 61 councillors with laptops or ipads in a bid to cut down on printing and delivery costs.
Currently the authority, which is facing slashing £47 million off its budgets, delivers the majority of its agendas and papers by internal courier.
The courier service is run by council contractor Agilisys which was awarded a multi million pound, 10 year contract in October 2010 to provide a number of functions for the authority.
The deliveries are made as part of the authority's internal courier service which also delivers paperwork to schools and other council buildings.
Councillors used to get courier deliveries four times a week, but these were reduced this year to three as part of cash saving measures.
It is estimated that the couriers drive hundreds of miles each week to ensure that each councillor gets the relevant paperwork needed to do their job.
The authority, which has already slashed £18.6 million from its budgets this year, is currently scrutinising all elements of its spending in a bid to balance the books.
As part of the scrutiny process, the authority's corporate organisation policy and scrutiny panel is now looking at the costs of delivering papers.
One alternative being considered is to provide all councillors with a personal laptop or ipad.
The average laptop costs in the region of £400- £500 while ipads range from £399 to £650, depending on the model.
The cost of the laptops - and the internet connections - would be funded by the council.
Scrutiny panel chairman, Councillor David Pasley, said: "The authority is looking at all areas of spending in an attempt to save costs.
"Currently we send out a lot of papers by courier.
"We need to cut down on the amount of paperwork issued by the authority and the costs of printing it and delivering it to members.
"We are now looking at the possibility of issuing all councillors either with ipads or laptops and are considering the cost of doing this.
"By doing this councillors could receive all their paperwork via email."
The authority has already cut down on the amount of paperwork it sends out.
Councillors generally only receive hard copies of main agendas and are asked to read background papers and other information online via the council's website.
An IT working group has now been set up to look at how to improve how councillors access information and make sure their access to sensitive documents in secure.
Many of the councillors already have computers or laptops of their own which they currently use for council work, promoting questions why the authority should fund new ones.
Clevedon councillor David Shopland, who is not computer literate, said funding laptops or ipads should not come out of the public purse.
Mr Shopland said: "I am one of three councillors on the council that refuse to use a computer.
"Being computer literate is not a qualification for being a councillor.
"If councillors want to communicate via computer or ipad then should provide their own and pay for it out of their own pocket.
"Why should it come out of the public purse?
"Councillors are paid an allowance to communicate with the public and the council and if that's how they want to work then they should pay for it themselves."