Debate over decision to scrap funded IT equipment for Huntingdonshire District Council members

Huntingdonshire District Council. Huntingdonshire District Council.

Saturday, May 3, 2014
8:00 AM

The withdrawal of council-funded laptops and broadband connections for councillors has been delayed after three members challenged the decision.

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The Tory-controlled cabinet agreed on April 10 to a proposal that anyone elected onto Huntingdonshire District Council would have to buy iPads or similar tablet computers, paid for out of their £4,000 annual allowances.

It also approved scrapping printed agendas and reports for meetings and using electronic versions instead.

The use of non-HDC email addresses by members was given the go-ahead, as was the ruling that from May 1 all newly-elected councillors would have to take part in the iPad scheme.

The changes would save £50,000 –the cost of updating the current IT systems used – members were told.

But the cabinet’s decision has been called in, delaying its implementation.

Lib Dem Councillor Mike Shellens warned the new policy could “harm the eyesight of councillors” and “dramatically increase the costs of printing at home”. He said the decision needed to be scrutinised by the whole council, rather than a group from a single party.

Fellow Lib Dem Councillor Ste Greenall was also concerned about increased costs for members. “There has not been enough time to consider this item,” he said. “Having a hard copy is more useful.”

UKIP councillor Ken Churchill said the change had “far reaching implications” for councillors and the decision had been taken “contrary to normal decision-making requirements”.

As a result of being called in, cabinet member Councillor Barry Chapman will have to attend the economic wellbeing overview 
and scrutiny meeting on Tuesday, May 6.

The matter could be sent back to the cabinet for reconsideration or referred to full council.

Should no further action be deemed necessary, the original decision will be implemented from May 6.

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