New iPads and laptops helping save money, Borders councillors reassured

Galashiels councillor Harry Scott.
Galashiels councillor Harry Scott.

Kitting out councillors with both a laptop computer and an iPad is saving taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds, according to bosses at Scottish Borders Council.

That’s because it’s cutting the authority’s bills for paper and postage by £17,000 a year now agendas and other documents no longer need to be sent out to its 34 elected members, it latest full meeting was told.

That reassurance was offered in response to a query about the necessity of the council’s recent handout to members of more than £44,000 worth of new laptops capable of running Windows 10 and larger iPads to make viewing documents easier.

Galashiels councillor Harry Scott voiced concerns over that expenditure, asking: “During the recent upgrade of IT equipment, why was it necessary to issue a laptop computer and an iPad to elected members, and what was the total cost of the exercise?”

In response, Kelso councillor Simon Mountford, the authority’s executive member for transformation and human resources, told him: “Elected members were issued with a laptop and an iPad as part of a recent upgrade to replace equipment which had previously been issued. 

“This equipment is provided to us to enable us to do our jobs, and the laptop and the iPad, as you will appreciate, provide different functions and that’s why you need them both.

“The replacement laptops contain new software capable of running Microsoft Office 365 and Windows 10, while the previous software installed on the old laptops was Windows 7, and that will no longer be supported by Microsoft after January 2020. 

“This means that efficient use by members would no longer be available and they would no longer be compliant with the council’s network and therefore unable to connect to it. 

“The iPads were upgraded to provide larger screens and more compatibility to help with the viewing of the often-large and complicated documents that constitute council reports.

“However, if any member wishes to only operate with one device, then they are free to do so. Any devices surplus to requirements can be returned and will be recycled to staff.

“The total cost of this exercise was £44,535, but, to put that into context, the move from paper to iPads has saved the council £17,000 a year in direct paper printing and postage costs, and that was at 2014 prices.

“Since the introduction of iPads for all councillors in 2014, more than £100,000 has been saved.”

Mr Scott replied: “In this day and age, I’m surprised we need two bits of kit to do the job.”

“It’s first-class equipment, but there’s an officer here with just a laptop, and it makes me wonder why we need two bits of kit when perhaps one would have done.”