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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The fight for e-democracy

The Daily Post this morning carries news of the latest controversy from Flintshire Council. It seems that they are going to spend £100,000 to provide councillors with laptop computers so as to save up to £13,000 every year in printing and postage costs of agendas and reports.

This has attracted the ire of Alyn and Deeside Labour Assembly Member, Carl Sargeant who says that he hopes that the executive sees sense and kicks these computers into touch.

Now it is not for me to comment on the way that a local council runs its affairs but this sort of criticism is fairly easy copy. Most Councils now lend a computer to their Councillors to facilitate the better running of business and to enable improved communications within the organisation and with constituents. In fact the Assembly does the same for its members.

Will Carl Sargeant now be returning all the ICT equipment he has the use of whilst he remains an Assembly Member?
The only comment I would add, is that these laptops have their hard drive(s) checked for indecent JPegs at regular intervals.

If they want to use their own PC/laptop for such activity that's up to them.
It would help if councils didn't come up with such poor justification.

£100,000 to save £13,000 a year doesn't add up - laptops won't last 8 years and there will be ongoing support costs as well.

Far better to make the straightforward case that councillors nowadays need a computer to do the job properly.
What the hell are expenses for £399 for a lap top will not kill people, I give up, my councils been mouthing off it cannot afford to do this and that, yet lends £9 million to the local rugby team they builds them a new stadium now says it's broke I'm not bloody surprised. Councils need a reality check of what the priority is
Just for the record any laptops or computers need to be networked with the Council's system and be capable of by-passing their fire wall. It is possible to set up a shop-bought machine to do this of course.
As a former Neath Port Talbot County Councillor I was charged around £800 a year for my networked slavinshly slow reconditioned dinosaur of a PC, though I did get a replacement (equally as bad) each time it died. This was taken directly from councillor salary and I was happy to be rid of it. Unfortunately if you look at the average age of coucillors it's fair to argue that most don't know how to switch one on let alone connect to the Council intranet!
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