Dudley councillors are already hoping for a 20% rise in their allowances and now it’s looking as though they’ll be further draining the public purse as 72 of them are in line to receive expensive Blackberry phones at a cost of £18,000 (Express & Star).
The council claim that equipping elected representatives with these devices will improve their efficiency and they recently spent a hefty £16,000 on Blackberries for housing managers. But in their capacity of councillors, how many of the 72 actually require immediate access to their emails? Especially when they already have internet access at work and at home thanks to local ratepayers. Why can’t these phones be allocated on a proven need basis rather than swamped out to all council members?
It’s hard to trust the people who say that this measure will improve efficiency when the way that they're planning on implementing it looks to be so very inefficient. And will there truly be a measurable improvement in the work of councillors? Unlikely. Local government just tends to increase it's costs without ever feeling the difference...
Labour leader David Sparks insists that those who receive Blackberries should give up their PCs in exchange, but this still doesn’t really represent a saving to the taxpayer as these surplus laptops have already been purchased and will presumably either be circulated to staff that haven’t previously had need for a laptop, or stored until someone needs a replacement or until their technology is deemed outmoded.
Dudley councillors might think that it’d be a handy novelty to have a Blackberry, but each phone purchased costs hard-up taxpayers’ £250. When pensioners are struggling and parents are being made redundant, they shouldn’t forget that this isn’t play money – it’s real cash that could help real people if they cut back on pricey splurges like this and used the money to give residents a tax-cut.