By Peter Devine
AS residents in Stockport tighten their collective belt councillors are in line for brand new IPads costing more than £415 each.
The details are revealed in a FOIA request made by the Mail to Stockport Council, on the cost of the IPads, which have already been supplied to 12 members at a cost in excess of at least £5,000.
The latest plan is to provide the remaining councillors, in the 63 member chamber, with IPads at an additional cost of £25,730.
Further, the Mail can also reveal, the latest expenditure comes in addition to more than £118,000 being spent on a new audio visual system for the council chamber, which the authority claims is out of date and needed replacement .
The latest expenditure comes as consultation on the reduction in library hours around the borough awaits a decision.
Deputy Council leader Councillor Mark Weldon said: “Councillors are being provided with IPad devices on a phased basis as a direct replacement for paper copies of agendas.
“The sound equipment in the council chamber was obsolete and no longer supported by the manufacturer. The system increasingly failed during meetings and needed replacement parts which were not available to allow the Council to extend its life any further.
“The new audio-visual system is available for hire by external users of the council chamber.
Jonathan Isaby, the political director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance disagreed, saying: “In order to have the moral authority to oversee necessary cuts in expenditure, councillors must ensure that any spending on themselves is absolutely necessary and delivering taxpayer value for money.
“It is certainly open to debate as to whether the council chamber requires a new sound system or councillors need the taxpayer to provide them with tablet computers, but what’s for sure is that people will be astounded to discover that they are issuing themselves with iPads: they are expensive, top-of-the-range, premium products and if they need a council-issue tablet at all, the council should be looking at the cheaper alternatives which are available.
“Stockport residents will also want to know whether there will be a corresponding reduction in printing costs and spending on other IT equipment and if not, why not?”
Coun Weldon added: “The cost of providing IPads is offset by the £20,000 savings in providing printed copies of agendas. All the councillors offered an iPad device have accepted.”