Councils hit by cuts splash out on iPads
HARD-UP councils overseeing multi-million pound budget cuts have been criticised for spending tens of thousands of pounds on iPads and tablet computers.
Three authorities in the region have all stocked up on the premium gadgets and monthly data plans to allow them to connect to the internet.
Critics say officers and councillors already have access to laptops and office computers and should pay for their own gadgets.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which is cutting £24 million this year, has spent more than £29,000 on 110 iPads.
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The council has so far failed to issue them to any of its staff or councillors but said it is planning to allocate some of them to schools and children's centres to aid learning.
Staffordshire County Council has spent almost £17,000 on iPads and tablet computers for directors and cabinet members amid a cuts programme designed to save £120 million in four years.
Cheshire East has spent £9,900 on the gadgets, including 12 iPads, and owns 320 £1,000 tablet laptops which are used by social care teams and senior managers.
City councillor Dave Conway, leader of the opposition City Independents, said: "After cutting the bus service for pensioners and blind people, I think they need to get their priorities straight.
"Every single officer sits in front of a computer while they are at work and they've already got laptops. It's ridiculous."
Student Luke Allen, aged 22, of Stafford, said: "It doesn't look very good to be giving councillors a trendy gadget that most of their constituents can't afford.
"They're great little devices but it's not what I'd call essential spending. They don't really do anything a laptop can't do and most people I know use them for playing games."
City councillor Olwen Hamer, cabinet member for transformation, said: "The city council has purchased 110 new iPads, at a cost of £265 each.
"A 21st century council needs 21st century technology and we are utilising the various options available to us, including the iPads and social media outlets, to make the city council a more efficient communicator, while also striving to create a value for money service. They will be distributed across a number of areas, including children's centres and schools, to increase parental involvement with child learning at an early age."
Councillor Wesley Fitzgerald, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: "So far, we have identified that this technology is aiding individuals in many aspects of their work. They can access important files and agendas on the move and respond quickly to requests being just some examples.
"More importantly, we are saving money by significantly reducing the amount of printed documents required, which can amount to thousands of pieces of paper each week."
Senior Staffordshire County Councillor Mike Maryon, said: "The great thing about iPads is not only are they beneficial in saving money in terms of printing costs, but they are also very efficient when it comes to searching for words in detailed council documents. We should have introduced them years ago."
Web designer Matt Burke, of Bankeyfields Residents' Association, added: "Any good use of technology is going to benefit everybody. In terms of emails, it will allow councillors to deal with their correspondence quickly so they have no excuses."
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