Trio of laptops is 'ludicrous'

A Norfolk councillor has been given so many laptops at taxpayers' expense that he has run out space to store them.

A Norfolk councillor has been given so many laptops at taxpayers' expense that he has run out space to store them.

The revelation follows an EDP probe showing elected members who serve on more than one authority often receive compli-mentary IT equipment from each.

Tim East represents Costessey on district, parish and county councils. The Liberal Democrat councillor yesterday described the situation as "ludicrous". He said: "It is a waste of public money. There is no space in my house for all the equipment they have given me so I actually had one of them resting on top of the lavatory.

"To have three laptops, as well as one of my own, is ludicrous. I need an extension to my property to accommodate all this IT equipment

"It could all be reallocated to schools which desperately need computers, particularly in the primary sector."

Mr East last week asked IT staff to remove one of his spare computers.

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He said councillors should be issued with just one laptop each - for district, county and parish- council business.

Others who serve on two or more authorities yesterday said they kept spare computers in cupboards. One leading councillor, with two laptops, said: "IT equipment improves the quality of service that councillors, and by definition councils, provide. But there has been a considerable amount of money spent on equipment without carefully looking at what councillors actually need."

Nearly half the councillors on Norfolk County Council also serve on parish or district councils.

Norwich city and the county councils liaise over IT equipment, with the three members who serve on both receiving just one computer. But other councils, including South Norfolk District and West Norfolk District, are not believed to have an agreement.

A spokesman for the TaxPayers Alliance, which campaigns for lower taxes, said last night: "If councillors want to demonstrate their commitment to delivering value for money, they should return any spare council computers. Not only is having more than one laptop a waste of money but there are also plenty of schools that would benefit from additional computers. When council tax is increasing, this sort of profligacy with our money is not on."

The county council has spent nearly £98,000 on laptops for its members over the last five years.

North Norfolk Council has spent nearly £13,000, and South Norfolk Council in the region of £19,000.

West Norfolk Council, which is currently undertaking an IT review, bought 62 notebook computers for its councillors in 2000, at a cost of £80,600.

A county council spokesman said: "We were always conscious of unnecessary duplication and cost. We have worked with district- council colleagues to try to find a solution. We have agreements with most district councils in Norfolk.

"Of the 40 county councillors who also serve on district councils, 24 have had their county-council laptops specifically configured so it can be used to access their district- council systems, preventing the need for duplication," he said.