Taxpayers set to save £100k with lower bills

Doncaster  Mayor Peter Davies.
Doncaster Mayor Peter Davies.

Doncaster Council’s mobile phone bill for 2011 is on track to be £100,000 cheaper than last year.

The figure comes after mayor Peter Davies and his cabinet pledged to reduce the use of mobiles following shocking figures which revealed taxpayers had to shell out almost half a million pounds to fund council mobile phones and other gadgets in 2010.

The new policy removes free access to mobile devices for councillors.

Mr Davies said: “I’m a great supporter of this policy, and I also fully support there are people who find it useful to have these devices. However, equally in the past we’ve seen some dreadful examples of over use and misuse of mobile phones, BlackBerries and laptops costing the authority somewhere in the region of half a million pounds.

“This is totally unacceptable in the current culture and anyone who is keen on protecting services should see this as a wasteful expense.

“I have my own mobile phone which I use extensively, but pay for myself. This is what I deem is right. I believe it is quite possible for members to fund these devices on their own accord, and not as a cost to the public purse, which matters more than ever these days.

“This policy is a big step in the right direction, but there is still more to be done.

“I hope we can achieve an even better contract deal in the future through looking at joint procurement work with some of our Yorkshire and Humber partners in order to ensure costs can be reduced even further.”

The total number of council mobile devices has been reduced from 3,023 to 1,912 - a 37 per cent reduction. Line rental costs have been reduced from £84,000 to £68,000 per quarter - a 19 per cent reduction. Meanwhile call and data charges have almost halved from £41,000 to £21,000 per quarter.

The policy will continue to provide access to mobile devices for elected members who choose to use them under the council’s new contract - but the cost of this will be chargeable from January 2012.

Doncaster Council says it has ensured improvements have been brought about by better management of mobile devices, working to get better tariffs and raising awareness amongst staff of the costs of using phones.

When the Free Press revealed the 2010 figures it highlighted that phones and BlackBerries given to Doncaster councillors racked up bills totalling £34,392.65 over a 14 month period between May 2009 and June 2010.

The total for phones used by council officers over the same period cost taxpayers £14,470.20. At that time only eight out of the 52 councillors with a council phone had published their number.