Oct 11 2013

Hall’s Got Balls: Leader Takes Axe to Free iPads at Harrow Council

ipadOnly a few weeks in, and we hear that Cllr Susan Hall, newley-elected leader of Harrow Council, has started ripping into the extravagant spending at the Civic Centre. It was only a matter of time before Hall, known for her relentless mission to stop the Council squandering taxpayers money, would start taking the hatchet to ‘freebies’ enjoyed by fellow councillors.

A total of 10 Apple iPads were issued to councillors under a trial which started earlier this year. The 64 gig Wi-Fi devices typically cost around £630.

The original aim of the trial was to offer iPads to all councillors as part of a building wide drive to cut the authority’s printing bill. However, Hall’s administration, with an eye on value for money, has put the brakes on the free trial. While nobody disputes the value of iPads in mobile and print-free working, the council is about to tell members: “If you want to keep your iPad, then you buy it or give it back:”

Cllr Paul Osborn (who has paid for his own iPad), said: “An iPad isn’t an iPerk. While nobody disputes iPads are useful working tools, what the public rightfully are sceptical about is these kinds of things being dished out to councilors with taxpayers picking up the bill. Previous administrations may have felt free to offer iPads to members but our view is if you like them, then pay for them or return them.”

It’s unclear how many councillors have elected to pay for the devices, nor how much the Hall will be collecting from each of her colleagues should they wish to retain them.

“Hall’s Got Balls” is likely to be just one of a series of articles, looking at how the Council’s new administration will be making savings by cutting wasteful – and inappropriate – spending across the council. Stay tuned for more!

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  1. Cllr "Willy" Stoodley

    Urm, Paul, hem-hem – you’ve got this all rather WRONG.

    Firstly, there were no FREE iPads issued to Cllrs. Those who accepted them had to sign an agreement that if they did not return them at the end of their term their wages would be docked the ORIGINAL COST PRICE. It would be like saying a Rep has been “given” a “free” car but he/she hasn’t – they’ve been lent a car to use for their work.

    Secondly, those who accepted them had to agree NOT to receive ANY paper notifications as they would instead be receiving the information electronically on their iPad. Now Paul, you’ve seen for yourself how thick those Cabinet papers, Planning Committee papers, Licensing Committee papers, Council Meeting papers etc are. I guess even at only 5p a sheet that would amount to around £500-£600 a year. So the Council (a) gets its money back in only a year (b) STILL OWNES the iPad and (c) helps the environment.


    You may think that “Hall’s Got Balls” but I assure you THAYA’S GOT THE WILLY (i.e. Me)!!!!

  2. Cllr. Paul Osborn


    Firstly, they were given to Councillors without charge, despite Councillors getting an allowance that includes an element for IT. The fact that they may be returned years later, worth significantly less doesn’t mean they aren’t free.

    As far as I am concerned they were given free to Councillors and paid for by the taxpayer.

    Secondly, whilst the costs of the iPads were in the budget, the savings weren’t. In my experience savings that aren’t written into the budget almost never materialise. It is worth noting your figures are all guesswork, nobody actually seems to have a clear business case with the actual figures detailing exactly how much the savings are and how that would be cashable (i.e. possible to take out of the budget to offset the clear and real costs.)

    This is not just a problem with this programme, it is the same with a number of other Council IT projects (e.g. Mobile and Flexible Working, the ITO, etc.)

  3. Harrow Dude

    “It’s unclear how many Councillors have elected to pay for the devices” Really? apparently only ten were given out as part of “a trial”. Surely someone at the Council can count to ten..No need to take your socks off. If you can’t clarify how many of our elected Councillors have paid for their IPads how can we have faith that your figures for allowances and expenses are correct. It should be noted that rather than supplying front-line staff with iPads as other councils have done. Harrow Council chose to spend £3million+ on a Capita system that 4yrs later still doesn’t work for the waste management team and according to the street cleansing team is still full of bugs and glitches. If Hall’s really got balls she start axing the deadwood just in it for the money senior management that have been sitting too comfortably for too many years. Go on Susie I dare you!…

    1. Cllr. Paul Osborn

      I have only just issued the instruction, which is why we don’t know how many will choose to keep them and how many will choose to return.

  4. King David

    Unfortunately this seems pretty outdated populist propaganda by Hall and co. Many Councils including Boris run GLA are using webstreams to move into 21 century – MUST FOR ANY EFFICIENT organisation. Similarly approved gadgets are issued by many other councils including GLA. Now for costs: cllr stoodley’s figure and explanation makes absolute sense and if no business case is made then what are you waiting for Paul – get on with it.

    Unfortunately after initial euphoria it is clear Tories are dithering on big decisions like saving tax payers’ money by making all meetings webcasted and openning up to masses from elite club who have time contact and can understand the bureacracy. Also saving money on clerkingminuting etc

    Tories are also shying away from challenging circa. 220k package for Chief Exec and make him come out to answer to residents once a month as suggested by residents here.

    Tories also have no balls in challenging the monopoly and rather arrogant approach of legal services when it comes to FoI and chief legal officer’s pay packet and relative issues and performance as reported by iharrow and other residents.

    On a separate note, this website is very good overall but seem to becoming more openly Toryharrow or Tory mouthpiece since Hall takeover. Hope this does not get
    deleted and it is just a blip.

    1. Cllr. Paul Osborn

      I am happy to look at any sensible and costed plan to save money. Unfortunately I have to deal with a number of uncosted and poorly thought through decisions, reversing them when possible.

      In addition, I will be looking through the areas I am now responsible for and will be coming up with a number of proposals to deliver real savings. However they won’t include give aways to Councillors.

      On FoI, I am happy to look at any issues you have had. Just drop me a line, or give some specifics of the problems. You also have the option of appealing any decisions of the Council on FoI to the Information Commissioner, who will take an independent view.

      I have consistently, both in opposition and the Cabinet worked to improve transparency and openness in the Council and will continue over coming months to do so.

  5. Cllr Willy Stoodley

    Paul – 1: Since when was a loan a free gift? 2: My figures are a “gestimate” rather than a guess – but as you know one can roughly estimate the amount of paper we receive and estimating 5p a copy is a pretty low estimate. Your decision is ill-founded and I suspect made for political publicity. You begrudge a Cllr on a basic take-home allowance of £680pcm an iPad that saves money, paper, time AND the environment, whilst the Chief Exec takes home around £9,000pcm, I repeat TAKES HOME AFTER TAX. Still, you’re in charge now, so if you’re happy with ill-founded, financially-unjustified, environmentally unsound decisions made purely for political gain and propaganda then I guess that’s okay then.

    1. Cllr. Paul Osborn

      1. Depends on the terms of the loan. An interest free loan with generous repayment terms is a gift. A loan offered on “commercial” terms isn’t. In this case the value of the iPad returned would be significantly less than the value of the iPad when given to the Councillor.

      2. The problem is you aren’t distinguishing between fixed costs, variable costs and the marginal cost of printing one extra page. The cost may or may not be 5p per page, but some of that cost is fairly fixed, it is likely to remain the same unless you dramatically change the quantities printed. For example the cost of running a Print Room, the staff that do the printing, repayment of the capital costs of the actual printer, etc.

      All you are saving in the current pilot is the marginal cost of printing those extra pages. Even then those savings aren’t in the budget and so are unlikely to be realised.

      If you do make a more fundamental saving by drastically reducing the quantity of printing, you’d also need to look at things like redundancy costs and put that into a business case to see if the saving is still justified and real.

      You would also need to look at whether iPads represent the best value for money (and why a 64Gb iPad at that.) It might be that notebooks or Android based tablets are better.

      Finally I don’t begrudge them the iPad, I merely take the view that Councillors in Harrow are given an allowance that includes an element to cover the cost of their IT needs and that is what should be used to pay for any iPads, PCs, Macs, iPhone or any other devices they need.

  6. Cllr Willy Stoodley

    By the way, I’ve just realised – full credit to you for your prompt reply Cllr Osborne but I was actually screaming for a reply from Paul BOAKES!! Apologies for any confusion, and for the avoidance of further confusion my shouty capitals were aimed at Mr BOAKES!!!! Where is YOUR reply, sir?!

    1. Cllr. Paul Osborn

      Always happy to help.

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