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Is it right to spend thousands of pounds on new computers and tablets for councillors?

PUBLISHED: 10:03 27 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:52 27 October 2019

Thetford Town Council have made the decision to spend �9,000 on IT. Pictured: King's House, Thetford Council's meeting place and councillor Jane James. Picture: Archant/Google

Thetford Town Council have made the decision to spend �9,000 on IT. Pictured: King's House, Thetford Council's meeting place and councillor Jane James. Picture: Archant/Google

Archant

A council's decision to spend thousands on IT updates and tablets is "hard to justify," according to a think tank.

Jane James, Conservative candidate for Thetford West. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Jane James, Conservative candidate for Thetford West. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Thetford Town Council will be making the improvements following its finance committee meeting, at which members chose to use £9,000 from its reserves to fund "essential IT upgrades and tablets".

Committee chairman Jane James said the money will be used to buy new computers and tablets for councillors.

She said: "The refresh of IT equipment is something that had previously been identified and provided for through the establishment of the IT reserve.

"As Windows 7 is coming to the end of being supported by Microsoft, Thetford Town Council have decided to embark on that refresh programme now.

Terry Jermy who is chair of the board at Charles Burrell Centre and a town, district, and county councillor. Picture: Conor MatchettTerry Jermy who is chair of the board at Charles Burrell Centre and a town, district, and county councillor. Picture: Conor Matchett

"This ensures that safeguards such as antivirus and software compatibility mean the town council can remain compliant and manage their electronic security risks effectively.

"The introduction of tablets was identified by the council as a means of reducing their paper usage and therefore reducing their environmental impact."

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But think tank, the Taxpayers' Alliance, said the move was hard to justify and the council must show that improvements have been made.

John O'Connell, chief executive, said: "This level of spending by a town council seems very hard to justify: their budgeted office overheads in 2018-19 were £9,100.

"If local authorities are able to evidence savings in printing costs and improved councillor attendance and performance, then these devices can be of benefit to taxpayers.

"In future, though, only the largest local authorities should indulge in these kind of purchases: town councils rarely have sufficient levels of responsibility to allow for such an outlay."

Thetford councillor Terry Jermy said the council must remain transparent.

He said: "It's a big investment but they will save money in the long run for going paperless.

"We need it make sure agendas are available on the website or hard copies available. The council needs to be transparent, it's about having a balance.

"We don't want to be excluding people who don't have the internet."

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