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Saturday, 30 August 2014

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Tablet computers to replace Carlisle council agendas?

Tablet computers could replace laptops for councillors.

iPad photo

The move was put forward by Les Tickner – Carlisle City Council’s portfolio holder for finance, governance and resources – at a meeting of the city executive.

Mr Tickner recommended the tablets should replace laptop computers already used by members.

He said: “Laptops are fine but they are heavy and not as user-friendly as tablets.”

It is also claimed that changing to tablets would save money on printing and photocopying council minutes.

Mr Tickner was reporting the findings and recommendations of the Saving Paper Task and Finish Group set up by the council’s resources overview and scrutiny panel.

The new equipment would be paid for by members’ allowances, not public funding.

Other authorities have provided councillors with iPads to view agendas and council documents in an electronic form – including Scarborough Council which faced a backlash from residents opposed to such a use of public funds.

Wrexham County Borough Council has recently started a pilot of councillors using iPads rather than a home PC and most members said that they preferred those to computers.

According to the task group’s report the budget for democratic services for printing and photocopying is £42,500 and during the last financial year the spend was £23,387. It also cost £3,840 to post committee papers out to councillors.

Councillors receive around £200-worth of committee reports per year.

The report stated that councillors had been invited to a demonstration of the new technology and documents could be annotated for use in meetings.

It added: “Members would be required to download their documents, usually via wi-fi, to their device prior to the meeting and would be alerted as to when reports were available.”

The report said that initial feedback from councillors attending the session suggested they would be happy using the new technology to see papers.

It added: “All members receive an annual allowance to assist them financially in their duties as a councillor. Members are required to pay for any broadband and telephone calls from their allowance.”

The executive agreed with the recommendations which will be considered by the overview and scrutiny committee next month.

Have your say

John, the article states "Members would be required to download their documents, usually via wi-fi, to their device prior to the meeting and would be alerted as to when reports were available." This can be done on the laptops they already have, no need to spend money on tablet devices, even more of a saving.

Posted by Me on 8 January 2013 at 11:09

I may sound a little naive here but I can not see where the saving will be made. Tablet or PC, the same level of communication can be made regardless. A laptop has a clear advantage of having a bespoke keyboard and is much more tactile for use in creating documents. Laptops have greater storage capacity with one terrabyte being commonplace against the average tablets 64gb. Lets not forget that a tablet with 64gb is typically around £200 more expensive than one with 16gb. Screen size is the next issue, how many councillors will find a 10" screen comfortable for extended viewing over a 15.6" screen on a typical laptop? How long before a councillor claims that they can not type comfortably on a tablet and also need a laptop? Paper doesn't come into the argument as the same usage would be applied to both pieces of hardware, you only need paper when you need to print, you do not need to print out every document on either a laptop or a tablet; you simply read it from the screen. This illustrates another massive advantage of a laptop as the keyboard doesn't obscure what is already a very small screen. Mr Tickner claims laptops are heavy and not user friendly, utter rubbish, laptops are infinitely more 'user friendly' than tablets & the weight of a typical laptop is certainly not heavy. The Wrexham comments relate to a 'Home PC' which typically does not refer to a laptop and we shouldn't be talking about councillors preferences, we should be talking about what they need to govern efficiently.
Then there is the matter of updating the rest of the councils systems and security if IOS, Windows 8 touch or Android is to be integrated into existing infrastructure. Tablets are a luxury, not a necessity, they are neither needed nor can they be justified in these times of austerity. Whether it is the 21st century or not, there is no need to spend money we have not got when there is no tangible saving to be made.

Posted by Brian on 7 January 2013 at 21:03

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