COUNCILLORS are being offered free tablet computers ... to save the Town Hall cash.
Authority chiefs said today that while the devices are £420 apiece, they will help members fight against the effects of spending cuts by helping it massively reduce the need for printing paper copies of committee reports, agendas and correspondence.
If all 75 borough councillors were to agree to work from one it could bring a cash saving of more than £50,000 a year.
A single meeting of a council committee currently costs over £1,300 alone in printing costs.
Under the proposals, councillors would lose their town hall-supplied printers. Instead Wi-Fi printers would be available in the councillors’ room at the Town Hall for them to print out any documentation they feel that they need in a paper form, instead.
The savings accrued will also help to offset the costs of the council continuing to provide BlackBerry devices.
Councillors unconfident about using a tablet will be offered an iPad training day...possibly via teenagers from the Youth Parliament who have already offered the service.
Dozens of councillors are already using them after a trial earlier in this spring. Now the offer is to be rolled out to all councillors.
Those councillors who decide against adopting an iPad are to be encouraged to bring their council laptop to Town Hall meetings and to use that, instead of consulting paper reports, instead.
Leader of the Council Lord Smith pointed out that the Cabinet had been using the devices “for some time” and this has led to a savings with a reduction in paperwork.
He said: “We currently have around 40 councillors using iPads and the feedback has been very positive.
“Councillors are already emailing in issues that they see when out and about in the ward and so the device had enabled them to provide an instant response for constituents. The council needs to save £14m in 2014/15 and has been looking at a number of innovative ways to cut costs and these devices have helped to achieve further savings. Officers have been liaising with councils which already have iPads – such as St Helens – as these devices help the councillors to become more self-reliant, which is the theme of the new Wigan Modern Councillor Programme.”
Leader of the opposition, Coun Gary Wilkes, said some of his Wigan Independent Network group were now using the new iPads.
He said: “I think they are great.
“WIN’s view is, if it makes councillors respond to local residents concerns quicker, then its worth the outlay.
“I will even support the need to scrap BlackBerry phones in the future this will again reduce costs of councillors office requirements.
“We will see the end of large documents being printed in future years, but some councillors like myself still prefer to read a paper document.”