Councillors have decided to proceed with updating iPads, with one Councillor telling the Full Council meeting that there are luddites costing £700 a year by using paper.
Back in November we first spotted and wrote about the report before the Democratic Services Committee that would have seen iPads and other devices such as laptops upgraded to latest models. That story kicked off a large debate with many unhappy at the spending in the climate of cuts.
The Scrutiny Committee considered the report, and as we reported in the debate (that only ourselves and the BBC covered) it emerged that some councillors had not taken up the device option, others had had used their own.
That meeting was told by one councillor that £35,000 a year in savings had been made when the iPads were introduced due to not having to print or pay for postage.
Today the report ended its journey at Full Council where all councillors, at least those present, had a vote on the recommendation to upgrade.
Councillor Carole O’Toole, who chairs the Democratic Services Committee, presented the report making it clear the devices were for incoming newly or re-elected councillors in May rather than the current elected ones.
Cllr O’Toole cited the report saying the iPad device were ‘most beneficial’ and ‘best value for money’ out of alternatives compared.
Immediately Cllr Dana Davies presented an amended proposal to the recommendation, which would see the decision deferred from the current councillors to after May at the Council’s next AGM (Annual General Meeting) thus meaning newly elected councillors would decide. In what was in effect a Labour proposal, Cllr Andrew Bailey seconded it.
Cllr David Griffiths spoke saying it was unfair to put the decision on new councillors, joking that he did not know what a councillor did for his first year.
He said: “We would be disenfranchising them as they won’t know what they need. We are going to ask them to decide them something they have no experience of. If they were going to say they don’t need an iPad,they don’t know how valuable they are.
“The cost is negligent for five years, its 500 odd pound, its nothing what it saves in stampage and paper alone.”
Cllr Bob Dutton said he supported the upgrade plans, and told the meeting that technology can change a great deal in six months.
Wrexham Council Leader Mark Pritchard spoke along similar lines of supporting the upgrade and embracing technology: “I won’t support the amendment. We should embrace technology, the iPad is a wonderful thing. If we want to go back to chalk and slate we can do that as well.”
Comparing the non-upgrade to a mechanic in a garage not having the right tools for the job, he described plans not to upgrade as a ‘nonsense’, adding, “I am disappointed we can’t have full support but I do understand we live in democracy.”
Cllr Phil Wynn added his support to the upgrade plans, saying: “Without the iPad we would be going backwards. There is an obligation that all members look at the cost of delivering democracy.”
Cllr Wynn said he had been told by the council’s IT department that the unit cost of the iPads was £310 of the £590 quoted in the report over five years, and that members using paper based equivalents would be costing the authority £700 a year instead.
There was no suggestion in the report that iPads would be scrapped, and the preamble to the amendment suggested a deferment on procurement and possible non-upgrade retaining current devices that Councillors were using tonight.
Cllr Wynn did not indicate how many members are costing the authority £700 a year when they do not need to, however we have observed the often inch thick agenda packs scattered about on member desks – alongside ipads.
. @mike_corris nearest councillors to us have iPads out *and* the inch thick agenda packs – with added A4 sheet of the new recommendation
— Wrexham.com (@wrexham) December 13, 2016
The Finance Officer told the meeting that a deferment could be problematic as the current plan was to buy some devices this financial year and some next year, and that if it was left to next financial year the Council ‘may struggle to fund that’.
Cllr David A Bithell invited more information to be shared on the savings made by using iPads, noting that although the £32,000 figure may seem a lot of money but the savings by not printing or posting would be higher. Although keen to get the information in the public domain no one was able to give a straight figure.
The Legal Officer voiced concerns over not refreshing out of date and unsupported equipment, and in perhaps a grim statistic for 15 odd Councillors in the room he recounted how in his vast 37 years of experience had seen around 30% ‘turnover’ of members in elections.
That added to the improbable timescales of forming committees and therefore decisions in 2017 ahead of any AGM he invited the meeting to ‘think very carefully about the amendment’.
Two votes were held, one on the proposal to defer the decision to after the elections, and a second to proceed with the plans to upgrade the iPads.
The plan to defer was defeated by 9 votes to 32 with no abstentions.
The plan to upgrade the iPads was passed 32 for, none against, and 10 abstentions.
Councillors vote for new iPads, a Lab group amendment (supported by Plaid Cymru) to postpone decision to after election is rejected 32 v 9
— Wrexham.com (@wrexham) December 14, 2016
(Pic: Some of the large agenda packs, a public view of the expensive print operation)