iPads for all at council facing £2m cuts

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A CASH-STARVED Yorkshire council yesterday agreed to provide iPads for every member while instigating job losses and cuts of more than £2m in the next 12 months.

Scarborough Borough Council had faced criticism over the controversial plans to supply all 50 councillors with the Apple tablets amid the need to enforce major savings.

During the debate there was further drama when a councillor had to be taken to hospital by ambulance after he suffered chest pains.

Conservative member Joe Plant was taken to Scarborough Hospital after falling ill during the meeting. It is understood he was in a comfortable condition last night.

The council meeting yesterday gave the go-ahead for the plans to purchase the iPads while also agreeing the budget for the new financial year. A total of £2.2m in savings will have to be made while 37 posts are due to be axed at the council.

While the majority of the jobs will be lost through vacant posts not being filled, the council has not discounted the possibility of compulsory redundancies.

But council leader Tom Fox maintained the introduction of the iPads will save the local authority a total of £53,000 a year by halting the use of all paper council agendas which will now be made available electronically.

He said: “We will be able to make significant savings after restructuring the way we work by introducing the iPads, which we are purchasing at a discounted rate.”

The latest version of the iPad can cost up to £400, although a bulk order of the tablets will mean they will cost £160. Several councillors have already expressed an interest in helping pay for the iPad they will be given.

Members voted to accept a one-off £220,000 grant from the Government which will mean council tax bills will be frozen in the new financial year.

The council’s share of the overall bill for an average Band D property will remain at £211.31.

Plans had been drawn up for a three per cent rise, but the cabinet decided last week to push ahead with the freeze before the budget was agreed by the full council yesterday.

The independent cabinet member for housing, public health, property maintenance and sustainability, Coun Bill Chatt, had condemned “bullying” tactics after the authority faced mounting pressure from Local Government Minister Eric Pickles over the proposed tax rise.

But Coun Fox maintained the three per cent rise was only one option in a public consultation which saw residents overwhelmingly back a council tax freeze.

He said: “We decided to include proposals for a three per cent rise to try and stimulate debate and glean the public’s opinions.”

paul.jeeves@ypn.co.uk