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Council spending on “top end” tablets and smartphones criticised

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A public spending watchdog has criticised Perth and Kinross Council for buying nearly £150,000 of iPads, smartphones and other “top end” tablets as part of a campaign to reduce paper waste.

The local authority has bought nearly 600 handheld devices and laptops in the last 18 months.

Managers hope using digital technology will reduce spending on paper print-outs, as well as helping elected members and staff work remotely.

Of the £146,048 total, just over £31,500 went on tablets and computers for councillors.

The outlay has been described as “totally unacceptable” by the Taxpayers Alliance, a national low tax pressure group.

Among the new machines are 20 Apple iPads and 142 Microsoft Surface Pro computers.

A total of 230 Samsung Galaxy J5 phones – last year’s model – were purchased for £23,407.

Last year, the council spent £67,662 on photocopying, printing and internal memos.

The total amount of confidential material shredded in 2017 came to around 31 tonnes, while 33,161 reams of paper was used up.

As part of the authority’s Transformation 2020 programme, officers identified significant savings can be made by reducing the volume of paper used across departments.

A spokesman said: “The council is investing in mobile technology such as smart phones and tablets to aid mobile working for elected members and staff.

“This gives users the functionality to be able to work remotely, reducing transport time and costs, and reducing the requirement for paper print outs.”

In a response to a Freedom of Information request on paper usage, the council stated: “A programme of work has been established to digitise council activity, significantly reduce paper, printing and storage costs through increased use of digital solutions and a digital record management system.

“Work will be undertaken over the period of the programme to measure the reduction in use of paper and ancillary costs.”

However, the move has been criticised by the Taypayers’ Alliance, a pressure group set up 14 years ago to campaign for a low tax society.

Campaign manager James Price said: “It’s just completely baffling that a local council thinks that it is appropriate to spend more than £140,000 on top end tablets for staff.

“This sort of spending is completely inappropriate in the wider context of overspending in Scotland.”

He added: “The amount spent on these fancy tablets cannot be repeated again, especially with council tax going up across the country.”

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