According to new numbers, taxpayers have had to forfeit 2 million pounds in the last three years simply for council workers to be given smartphones.
The figures that were released by the Surrey County Council and Reigate and Banstead Borough Council exposed that the cost of the contracts has even been rising. Borough council’s expenditure is now almost doubling from 10,241 pounds to 18,418 in 2012.
Despite the fall in the rental charges, the cost of the contracts have risen from 621,857.13 to 751,585.95 in 2012. During that time the usage cost makes up most of the difference, as it has risen by nearly a quarter-million pounds within the last three years.
According to authorities, staff has been issued the phones, that include items like Blackberrys, for work purposes. However, the rising cost of the devices has now come under fire by groups like the Taxpayers’ Alliance.
“Local residents will be alarmed to see such a massive hike in council staff mobile phone bills over the past three years,” said Eleanor McGrath, campaign manager at the independent pressure group, “particularly at a time when local authorities are pleading poverty and having to find savings. This is an alarming amount of taxpayers’ cash to be splashing out on mobile phone contracts.
“Councils must be clear as to why this huge increase has occurred in the last three years and then set about reducing it, so that local taxpayers can be reassured that their hard-earned money is not being unnecessarily squandered.”
Redhill councillor and executive member for housing and welfare at Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, Julian Ellacott is now defending the issuing of the phones. In a recent interview he stated: “The cost of our mobile phone contracts increased in 2011, due to the introduction of Blackberrys for some staff, which will incur a monthly line rental charge.”
“Blackberrys are only issued where there is a sound business case to support. For officers who have to spend much of their time away from a desk or office, a mobile device saves time and increases efficiency. Staff are not permitted to use their Blackberrys for personal calls or internet browsing.”
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