iPads to make way for ‘paperless’ council meetings as £53k IT budget awaits approval

iPads will be rolled out among Dacorum borough councillors
iPads will be rolled out among Dacorum borough councillors

Paper could soon become obsolete at Dacorum Borough Council meetings after the authority’s cabinet approved the introduction of iPads for all members.

At a cabinet meeting held on Tuesday evening, a report setting out plans to provide councillors with tablet computers was agreed upon.

The budget for the scheme, which is designed to lead to ‘paperless’ committee meetings, comes from the council’s democratic services and IT capital budgets for the current and next financial year.

Of the current budget, £10,000 has been allocated for the testing and configuration of the tablets – which will be a mix of Apple iPad Air 32GBs and iPad Minis.

A further £53,500 is awaiting approval in the 2015/16 budget round, which will cover the broader roll-out of the devices and support the national modern.gov project towards online governance.

So far, 14 tablets have been bought for distrubtion among six councillors, two democratic services team members, four people in leadership team roles and two of the authority’s ICT team.

These will be used for a trial period ahead of the election in May.

At present, the council spends up to £10,000 a year on printing and mailing for member services. A document circulated at the cabinet meeting identified the tablets as a way to significantly reduce levels of printing and achieve ‘sizeable’ annual savings.

It also sets out a series of non-financial benefits to the move, which include creating a comprehensive database for forward plans, agendas, minutes and reports, and increased security allowing for the secure publishing of information.

The council’s group manager for democratic services Jim Doyle said: “The financial benefits are not enormous, but significant, and there are other obvious benefits.

“It should make us a good deal more efficient. Back office functions will be more efficient, we will be more modern and meetings should be quicker.

“Councillors will be able to look up information at their fingertips – for example, previous minutes and agendas.

“The idea is a move towards a significant reduction in the amount of paper we use at meetings. The eventual aim will be to get rid of paper altogether, but in the interim we have to work towards that.”

The wider roll-out of tablets to all council members and some leadership team members is expected to take place after May’s election.