Edinburgh council plans to cut costs with iPads

Local authority hopes to save £200,000 a year by moving towards ‘paperless’ committee meetings

Edinburgh city council is to roll out iPads to councillors in an effort to make savings and cut down on the amount of paper used at the authority.

The council hopes that the programme will save around £200,000 annually, as well as 1m sheets of paper a year. It said that the technology will allow councillors to access reports online during meetings and carry out more work while away from the office.

A spokesman for Edinburgh council told Guardian Government Computing that 58 councillors will be given iPad 2s, along with 25 supporting staff who regularly attend committee meetings. He said that there were no plans to widen the programme to include other members of staff.

Edinburgh spends nearly £200,000 a year on printing committee papers for councillors and other employees. Introducing iPads will have a one-off cost of around £18,000, according to the council. The authority looked at a number of products, but said it opted for Apple’s iPad because of the functionality, reliability, and software compatibility.

Edinburgh acknowledged that it may not be possible to cut out paper entirely, but said it expects to comfortably cover its costs in the first year alone.

A phased roll out will happen in the coming weeks and months, but the spokesman said that the details of how this will be done were still being finalised.

Alastair Maclean, director of corporate governance at the council, said: “This initiative sends an important message about how we are looking to use IT to run the council better. Such innovations are standard practice in the business world and we need to do the same. It also pays for itself in the first year and provides recurring benefits.”

Councillor Andrew Burns, council leader, stressed that the authority needs to be a “modern organisation” that embraces technology and uses it to save money and improve its operations.

He added: “This is a great chance to show we are serious about being more efficient while also reducing our impact on the environment.”

Edinburgh council is the latest public sector organisation to introduce tablet computers to help improve processes. Earlier this month, Bradford teaching hospitals foundation trust revealed plans to roll out up to 1,000 iPads to clinicians to access electronic patient records.

This article is published by Guardian Professional. For weekly updates on news, debate and best practice on public sector IT, join the Guardian Government Computing network here.

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