Durham County Council to cut mobile phone spending after £339,562 bill

The Northern Echo: Last year The Northern Echo revealed how 110 councillors at the authority, along with 917 staff, possessed smartphones with the overall bill – including ongoing costs and line rental – weighing in at £339,562 Last year The Northern Echo revealed how 110 councillors at the authority, along with 917 staff, possessed smartphones with the overall bill – including ongoing costs and line rental – weighing in at £339,562

THE largest council in the North-East is to cut the amount it spends on mobile phones for councillors.

A new agreed protocol means no more than £150 will be spent on any one mobile phone provided by Durham County Council, typically ‘smartphones’ providing e-mail and internet access.

Last year The Northern Echo revealed how 110 councillors at the authority, along with 917 staff, possessed smartphones with the overall bill – including ongoing costs and line rental – weighing in at £339,562.

The figure dwarfed that spent by neighbouring North Yorkshire County Council, whose bill was £35,397.

Members at Durham County Council are also entitled to a laptop, although the authority revealed it is now trialling a number of modern tablet computers.

That move was criticised by independent Weardale county councillor John Shuttleworth.

He said: “The way money is at the moment, people should stick with the facilities that they have already got. It is just a total waste of money.”

County councillor Joe Armstrong, a member of the council’s member development and support group, said: “In terms of mobile phones we can’t just go and buy them at ridiculous prices.

“Members will have a limited choice of phones and the training to go with it.”

Coun. Armstrong said the authority was looking to move towards what he called a “paperless” office by introducing tablet computers.

“Members will have the choice of a laptop or tablet so they can download all our council papers onto those devices should they wish.

“This will be cost effective and save a fortune on officers’ time and printing and postage, more than mitigating the initial outlay.

“We can fully justify any expense on IT and mobile phones. In this modern age being a councillor is a 24/7 job and we need to be able to be contacted and kept updated when necessary.

“We are a £1.2bn organisation and the money spent on members’ equipment to make them more effective at the job that they do is a drop in the ocean.”

Phil Jackman, the council’s head of ICT services, added: “The new protocol on mobile phones introduces a limit on the cost of phones available to members.

“The choice of phones includes many models which are free or very low priced. Our network contract also means that the majority of calls from these phones are free.

“We also recently purchased a small number of tablet computers, which members are using on a trial basis so that we can establish whether they are a more suitable and cost-effective way of assisting members in doing their jobs than laptop computers.”

Comments (8)

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11:24am Mon 14 Jan 13

freelance says...

.........More waste at all councils. The provision of IT equipment is superfluous
in many cases as some councillors do not use the facility.

They only use the paper copies of reports and agendas issued for meetings.

This duplication is appalling and very costly to us.
.........More waste at all councils. The provision of IT equipment is superfluous in many cases as some councillors do not use the facility. They only use the paper copies of reports and agendas issued for meetings. This duplication is appalling and very costly to us. freelance

12:33pm Mon 14 Jan 13

theWorkerScum says...

Why would tablets be any more cost effective then a laptop. What a load of nonsense. Its always funny when the councillor brings his top of the range laptop in and we have our old laptops for running memory hungry programs. Councillor has email and word, but it keeps em happy I suppose.
Why would tablets be any more cost effective then a laptop. What a load of nonsense. Its always funny when the councillor brings his top of the range laptop in and we have our old laptops for running memory hungry programs. Councillor has email and word, but it keeps em happy I suppose. theWorkerScum

12:38pm Mon 14 Jan 13

loan_star says...

I'm sure there will be deals available with free (or very cheap) handsets and plenty of free minutes and internet capacity without costing more than £50 per month per phone.
I'm sure there will be deals available with free (or very cheap) handsets and plenty of free minutes and internet capacity without costing more than £50 per month per phone. loan_star

1:13pm Mon 14 Jan 13

jsrace says...

Durham County Council are looking at ways to cut waste due to the financial climate! That's all well and good, but the vast amount of extravagance and pure waste of public funds that have taken place long before the present crisis hit should have been addressed years ago.

Now they are patting themselves on the the back for every little thing they say they can save money on and somehow want us to give them praise for their past and present incompetences! When in reality absolutely none of this waste should have taken place in the first instance, and auditors should be called in to build a case for heads to roll.

It is exactly this laxy daisy attitude towards public finances which got the country into this mess in the first place. If a company director was guilty of a such easy come easy go attitude, then You can guarantee they would be looking at a prison sentence! Why not the heads of the council, or are they really above the law?
Durham County Council are looking at ways to cut waste due to the financial climate! That's all well and good, but the vast amount of extravagance and pure waste of public funds that have taken place long before the present crisis hit should have been addressed years ago. Now they are patting themselves on the the back for every little thing they say they can save money on and somehow want us to give them praise for their past and present incompetences! When in reality absolutely none of this waste should have taken place in the first instance, and auditors should be called in to build a case for heads to roll. It is exactly this laxy daisy attitude towards public finances which got the country into this mess in the first place. If a company director was guilty of a such easy come easy go attitude, then You can guarantee they would be looking at a prison sentence! Why not the heads of the council, or are they really above the law? jsrace

2:23pm Mon 14 Jan 13

st-george1 says...

It would appear this is public-sector peanuts when we learned that the old Cleveland Police Authority Chief Exec used a corporate credit card to pay more than £8,000 for pub and restaurant bills, more than £16,000 on hotels and more than £9,000 on flights.and also used for spending at a golf club, a florist’s, and jeweller’s and furniture store Ikea ... whilst the old Authority Chairman racked up a £1,600 mobile phone bill per month and spent hundreds of pounds on meals using the authority’s credit card.
I question whether these people really do have a death wish !
It would appear this is public-sector peanuts when we learned that the old Cleveland Police Authority Chief Exec used a corporate credit card to pay more than £8,000 for pub and restaurant bills, more than £16,000 on hotels and more than £9,000 on flights.and also used for spending at a golf club, a florist’s, and jeweller’s and furniture store Ikea ... whilst the old Authority Chairman racked up a £1,600 mobile phone bill per month and spent hundreds of pounds on meals using the authority’s credit card. I question whether these people really do have a death wish ! st-george1

12:58pm Tue 15 Jan 13

Height of Sanity says...

This is nothing short of ridiculous there's no reason why councillors can't be expected to use their own mobile phone or home phone and buy their own laptops, the cost to the taxpayer should only be £0.00 - 24/7 job my backside!!
This is nothing short of ridiculous there's no reason why councillors can't be expected to use their own mobile phone or home phone and buy their own laptops, the cost to the taxpayer should only be £0.00 - 24/7 job my backside!! Height of Sanity

1:27pm Tue 15 Jan 13

Homshaw1 says...

"This will be cost effective and save a fortune on officers’ time"

So they will be to make a large number redundant to help finance it otherwise it is a waste of time
"This will be cost effective and save a fortune on officers’ time" So they will be to make a large number redundant to help finance it otherwise it is a waste of time Homshaw1

9:35am Thu 17 Jan 13

neilt63 says...

If you remember when this story broke in The Echo last year, there were several comments on how the council and council officials needed this new "smart technology" in order for them to perform to the best of there ability. Well now the bill has dropped on the mat for £339,562 and and it news, not to those of us that live in the real world it isn't! If you have that ammount of phones and Ipads it has a cost.
Unfortunately "we" will ultimately have to pick up the bill. But wait, heres a suggestion, get the users of these devices to highlight there own calls and data usage and then deduct it from next months salary, just like the rest of us!
If you remember when this story broke in The Echo last year, there were several comments on how the council and council officials needed this new "smart technology" in order for them to perform to the best of there ability. Well now the bill has dropped on the mat for £339,562 and and it news, not to those of us that live in the real world it isn't! If you have that ammount of phones and Ipads it has a cost. Unfortunately "we" will ultimately have to pick up the bill. But wait, heres a suggestion, get the users of these devices to highlight there own calls and data usage and then deduct it from next months salary, just like the rest of us! neilt63

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