County councillors ring the changes as they are offered iPhones after "terrible experience" of current handsets

Councillors whose phones are leaving them disconnected from their constituents are being offered the chance to change to an iPhone - but some fear that makes them appear disconnected from reality.

Friday, 10th August 2018, 5:57 pm
Updated Monday, 13th August 2018, 11:38 am
Councillors can choose from an iPhone 7 (above), a basic handset which does not have internet access, or their own personal phone.

The 84 members of Lancashire County Council were issued with new devices just over a year ago, but the authority has received complaints that the handsets are not fit for purpose.

Now, they are being given several options, including an iPhone 7 - which would cost county hall a net £27,000 if every councillor took up the offer.

The figure includes the combined savings which would come from the return of the councillors' old phones and a discount negotiated with the supplier.

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Deputy leader of the Conservative-run authority, Albert Atkinson, told a cabinet meeting that his current council phone will not work at all in the area he represents.

“We’ve had members from all [political] parties not happy with their phones. The choice is for councillors - it is down to you.”

That choice is between keeping their current device, downgrading to a phone-and-text-only handset, using their own personal phone or taking the iPhone option - at a cost of £455 per councillor.

Deputy leader of the Labour opposition group, John Fillis, said: “Many of the people who have spoken to me regarding this are astounded that we’re giving out iPhones to councillors at a time when we’re making cuts across the board.”

Cabinet member for health, Shaun Turner, said it was “a productivity issue”.

“The phones we have been using are a terrible experience and just can’t cope with the demands of what they’re supposed to do. So we can carry on watching the [buffering] circle go round or we can get on with the job,” County Cllr Turner said.

Labour leader Azhar Ali suggested councillors should be given support to install the council’s intranet system on their own personal devices - a move which County Cllr Atkinson said would be “great for us and save us money”.

The debate hinted at a race to the bottom over the choice councillors might make.

County Cllr Fillis told council leader Geoff Driver that he was “quite happy” for Labour members to be excluded from the iPhone option - with the exception of one councillor whose needs required it.

“Tempting though it is to accept [that offer], I think I ought to save you from some of your own members,” County Cllr Driver said.

“We will see which option [councillors] choose,” he added.