Ian Weinfass, Senior reporter
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
When it invested more than £10,000 into trendy iPad computers two years ago Havering Council was the subject of national debate.
But the council says it has reaped the rewards of investment and saved £39,000 since their introduction.
Across the council, 194 of the gadgets have been rolled out, for use by councillors and officers.
Since 2011 the council has spent £27,000 on the tablets, but received 115 of them for free under the terms of its contract with phone company T-mobile.
Council leader Cllr Michael White said: “We know that the introduction of iPads was controversial, but they have really helped to make savings as well as improve the level of service to our residents.
He added: “Because of our contract with T-Mobile, the majority have been free.
“We want to drive out costs through cutting bureaucracy and making sure that our officers have the tools to do the job and iPads are just one way of doing that.”
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “If genuine savings have been made through the introduction of tablets in place of the automatic printing of documents, of course we welcome that. But residents will be wary of the claim that the council got over 100 ‘free’ iPads.
“There’s no such thing as a free iPad, and Havering Council Tax payers will be right to wonder if their cost has been passed on in another way.
“In any event, iPads are a top-of-the-range, premium product and there are much cheaper tablets available that would have saved local people yet more money.”
But Labour leader Cllr Keith Darvill said: “I was in favour of them when they were brought in and I think its made the job of a councillor more efficient, I print documents far less now.”
Residents’ Association leader Cllr Clarence Barrett said: “Whether it’s an i-pad, a laptop, a tablet, a PC or pen and paper, the important thing is to demonstrate value for money on any expenditure.”
Independent Residents’ Group leader Cllr Jeff Tucker said: “At first I was opposed to the plan because I didn’t want to risk the jobs of secretaries at the council, but I’ll hold my hands up and admit that it has improved the way I work.”
Despite the leaders’ praise, 17 councillors did not take up the offer for use of the device.
Several other councils across the country have also introduced iPads for staff and councillors since Havering’s pilot.
But neighbouring Redbridge Council decided against rolling them out to all its members in November of last year, following a trial.