Councillors’ £4,000 IT strategy heavily criticised as ‘wanton waste of money’

15:00 13 January 2014

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Woman's hands typing

Archant

Finance bosses at the town hall have been criticised for earmarking £4,000 for laptops and tablets while simultaneously increasing council tax.

But the town clerk said that, if taken up, it could be a viable ‘cost-cutting’ measure because of the soaring increases in posting and the printing of council documents.

On the draft budget papers for 2014-2015 the figures allow for a one-off £4,000 cost to buy councillors laptops or tablets.

Lib Dem councillor Eileen Wragg said: “I do think that it is extravagant.

“I believe that the purchase of these items for town councillors is a wanton waste of money at a time when councils are faced with difficult decisions in making cuts to their funding.

“After all, our only statutory responsibility is for allotments.

“Why on earth do we need extra IT equipment? East Devon has just gone paperless, and councillors have to purchase their own devices.”

By law, councils have to provide documents to councillors in a paper format – but there are moves to allow these documents to be sent electronically.

Town clerk Colin Poole said that the cost of printing, postage and telephones totalled £9,000 during the last financial year.

He said: “We have been looking at opportunities to make savings.

“The cost of postage and printing is going up and up and up.

“It is conceivable that if we purchase electronic devices for the councillors, in two years we would be better off.”

He added: “This may enable those councillors willing and able to sit at meetings with their papers electronically before them to avoid printing costs.

“For others it may be that by contributing towards the cost of print cartridges and paper we save the cost of postage by councillors printing out their own paperwork. For some, it will remain necessary for the council to print off the paperwork and post it. However, if only half the councillors took steps to facilitate cost reduction, then the taxpayer would be better off within a few years.”

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