Posted: Mon 12th Oct 2020

Flintshire councillors could get free laptops as taxpayer-funded iPads branded ‘inadequate’ for virtual meetings

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Oct 12th, 2020

Flintshire councillors could be given free laptops to help them follow virtual meetings after their taxpayer-funded iPads were branded “inadequate”.

Members of Flintshire Council are already provided with hand-held Apple devices to assist them with their work.

However, following a shift away from physical meetings due to the coronavirus pandemic, the local authority has reported some are having trouble taking part online without being able to view agendas separately.

It is now proposing to spend up to £27,000 to buy laptops for politicians, claiming it would be balanced by a reduction in printing fees.

Meanwhile, some could also receive a broadband allowance of £30 per month to address connection issues – a move which would see the council foot a bill of more than £25,000 per year if every councillor takes up the offer.

It comes despite the authority warning in July that it was facing a financial blackhole of up to £5.4m because of the Covid-19 crisis.

Outlining the plans in a report, chief governance officer Gareth Owens said: “We recognise that our current IT provision for members (based on providing iPads) is now inadequate for the circumstances.

“In addition, we are incurring increasing costs of printing and postage. This has also resulted in an increase to the council’s carbon foot print.

“To alleviate these concerns, and enable members who are currently without their own IT equipment, we have investigated the provision of lap tops.”

He added: “We are seeking to provide a council laptop to each member who requests it.

“These costs would be offset against the mounting costs of printing and postage for agendas.”

During August, the council carried out a review of what IT equipment councillors currently have available to them.

About 25 of the 70 members on the authority said they already had another device to read agendas on.

Mr Owens said it meant the authority would potentially need to buy 45 laptops at a cost of up to £600 each, although he added they could choose not to accept the offer.

In relation to tackling internet speeds, he said: “We acknowledge that we have a small number of members who, despite having the maximum broadband provision in their area, still do not get sufficient bandwidth.

“This has caused connectivity problems and resultant frustration for those members. In such circumstances, ‘a MiFi’ device would be provided.

“This would have a cost of around £30 per month, but this could then be offset against a member’s £30 broadband allowance.”

The proposals will be discussed at a virtual meeting of the council’s constitution and democratic services committee being held on Wednesday.

Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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