A SENIOR councillor has defended the buying of 40 iPads for Shropshire Council claiming they are not ‘toys for the boys’.

Cllr Martin Taylor-Smith, cabinet member for IT, defended the move at a time when the majority of Shropshire Council staff are facing the decision between a 5.4 per cent pay cut or non-renewal of their contracts.

“We’re not spending reams of money having toys for the boys, this is actually pragmatic,” he said.

Only 16 of the 40 iPads were for councillors, he said, the rest for departmental staff.
Their introduction was a pilot with the intention of rolling out iPads as standard hardware across the council.

The 40 iPad users would try them out to see how to best make use of them, and would be relied upon to teach others when more were rolled out in the next phase.

“The IT budget is about £12m a year but I intend to slash that quite dramatically,” he said. “The cost of updating an iPad is vastly less than updating a laptop. The aim is to get rid of the laptops. We have about 400 coming to the end of their life, but we’ll be recycling them to parish councils and so on.

“If you take a laptop the value of the actual machine is only about a third of the cost, because you have all the software on top of that. If you look at the applications on an iPad, a lot of them are free.”

He added iPads would be extremely useful in the field, as for example, a picture of a hole in the road could be sent back to the office with an automatic GPS tag of your position.

“The iPads are replacing laptops and are part of an ongoing plan to consolidate the number of devices used by councillors and staff down to one, so there will be no need to spend money on mobile phones and laptops in the future, it will all be done from one mobile device.

“Working from mobile devices will also drastically reduce the need for printing reports at meetings, which will save more than £100,000 a year.

“The devices themselves have cost around £12,000, which I believe is a valuable investment to achieve major savings year on year. But it's not just about making savings – it's about improving and modernising the council's computer systems, and streamlining our internal processes so we can provide better value for money for Shropshire tax-payers.”

But Cllr Heather Kidd, member for Chirbury and Worthen, called the scheme “outrageous” in the light of the pay cuts and suggested the iPads were unnecessary and would see little use from many councillors.