Calls for councillors' £400 IT allowance to be scrapped

An alternative budget put forward to a council has called for a £400-a-year members’ IT allowance to be scrapped and replaced with tablets and training.

Cabinet members of the Labour-controlled Cannock Chase Council have backed budget plans for 2021/22 and submitted them to the full council for approval.

During the virtual meeting the Conservative opposition group put forward its own budget plans for the coming year – and narrowly won a vote to have the proposals referred to the cabinet for further consideration.

The proposal to replace the members’ IT allowance with tablets for each councillor and training was also put forward by the opposition group last year, but not adopted.

Opposition group leader Councillor Olivia Lyons, who presented the alternative budget at Wednesday’s meeting, said: “Every councillor receives £400 per year in what is packaged as ‘IT Consumable Allowance’ – in other words, IT expenses. Last year, I stated how the public may naturally assume most councillors spend this on tablets; user-friendly, secure, portable devices to view and edit documents and ensure data protection.

“One year on and we have, almost, all grasped how use a computer, how to use Zoom and how to use the mute function. Before each full council, we still receive reams of paper, which we also receive via email. These papers are sent to councillors who profess to be part of a ‘paperless authority’, the very same councillors who declared a climate emergency and pledged to protect our environment.

“Actions speak louder than words. Councillors cannot claim to protect the environment but not practice what they preach. I repeat again that those very same councillors receive £400 a year for IT yet request everything on paper. I ask yet again, is this really an efficient use of taxpayer money?

Cannock Chase District Council

“A number of us already use devices, even in chamber, but purchasing something suitable for those that do not would be a one-off cost as our budget figures show. iPads can then be reused and manufacturers suggest an average lifespan of four-years. I propose we stop members receiving an ‘IT Allowance’ which between us accumulates to £16,350 per year. Over a four-year period, this would save the taxpayer in excess of £40,000.

“I can’t help but think that, if this alternative recommendation had of been implemented last year, we would have collectively been far better equipped to enter this new world of virtual meetings.”

The budget put forward by the controlling Labour Group does contain proposals to introduce tablets, but starts with new members starting their terms of office from May and those who wish to opt in to the scheme.

Council leader George Adamson said: “I wish to propose that the allowance be amended with effect from the local elections due to take place this year so that new members are provided with an iPad together with appropriate training and do not receive the IT allowance.

“Existing members can continue to receive the IT allowance if they so wish or they can opt to receive, dependent upon their council requirements, a new iPad/tablet or laptop; be given appropriate training and surrender their IT allowance.

“This is a similar proposal to that put forward by the Conservative Group, but I feel that this is a more appropriate way to phase in the change and reflect the changing world we work in. The proposal will enable relevant members to continue to utilise the benefits of remote working and virtual meetings with the laptop option providing a safe and secure environment for the use of Teams and Zoom.

“I hope that all members will support this cost effective and sensible alternative.”

Concerns were raised by other members however that replacing the IT allowance with tablets and training would not address costs incurred carrying out council duties at home, such as WiFI or energy bills.

And the cost to the environment of new devices, such as the requirement of raw materials and energy to produce them as well as the electronic waste created by discarding older models, was highlighted by Green Party member Councillor Andrea Muckley.

Most Read

Most Read

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News