£662K for 'free' laptops in Wales

June 22, 2011 2:37 PM

As reported in the South Wales Echo 21st June, a scheme to provide free laptop computers to children throughout Wales is to be scrapped. The previous Welsh Assembly Government had earmarked funding that would have seen 1200 laptops provided to children within areas of deprivation in South Wales.

However, like many similarly well-intentioned schemes, this project has seen Welsh taxpayers' money simply frittered away. It was revealed through written answers to the Shadow Education Minister that £662,364 had been spent on 943 laptops, a figure that equates to just over £700 per laptop. 

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Let's not go giving them any ideas now"][/caption]

When you consider the bulk buying power of the Welsh Assembly Government, £700 per laptop is far too high. Go on to any major electronics retailers' website and you can find deals for good quality laptop computers for considerably less. If you are placing an order for 1200 laptops over the space of a couple of years, further discounts will be available.

Is it surprising, then, that last year Sir Philip Green reported that central government procurement processes were not fit for purpose? He discovered laptops and desktops cost £61 million a year from 13 different providers, with prices ranging from £2,000 to £353, a difference of 82 per cent.

To make matters worse for the people of Wales, this scheme has been taking place at a time when educational standards and funding within Wales lag behind the rest of the UK. On average, local authorities in England spend £604 per pupil more than in Wales.

The intentions of the Welsh Government have to be questioned and those who have control of public finances need to be held to account. As Sir Philip said last year:

"If you don't have consistent pricing for products that your staff buy with their own money, how is your business going to be efficient?"


Hopefully this is something that will reverberate its way to Cardiff.As reported in the South Wales Echo 21st June, a scheme to provide free laptop computers to children throughout Wales is to be scrapped. The previous Welsh Assembly Government had earmarked funding that would have seen 1200 laptops provided to children within areas of deprivation in South Wales.

However, like many similarly well-intentioned schemes, this project has seen Welsh taxpayers' money simply frittered away. It was revealed through written answers to the Shadow Education Minister that £662,364 had been spent on 943 laptops, a figure that equates to just over £700 per laptop. 

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Let's not go giving them any ideas now"][/caption]

When you consider the bulk buying power of the Welsh Assembly Government, £700 per laptop is far too high. Go on to any major electronics retailers' website and you can find deals for good quality laptop computers for considerably less. If you are placing an order for 1200 laptops over the space of a couple of years, further discounts will be available.

Is it surprising, then, that last year Sir Philip Green reported that central government procurement processes were not fit for purpose? He discovered laptops and desktops cost £61 million a year from 13 different providers, with prices ranging from £2,000 to £353, a difference of 82 per cent.

To make matters worse for the people of Wales, this scheme has been taking place at a time when educational standards and funding within Wales lag behind the rest of the UK. On average, local authorities in England spend £604 per pupil more than in Wales.

The intentions of the Welsh Government have to be questioned and those who have control of public finances need to be held to account. As Sir Philip said last year:

"If you don't have consistent pricing for products that your staff buy with their own money, how is your business going to be efficient?"


Hopefully this is something that will reverberate its way to Cardiff.

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