A WHOPPING £60 million is to be spent on thousands of iPad-style devices for public sector workers, the Evening News can reveal today.
The Scottish Government will spend the sum on tablets for councils, health boards and other public sector bodies across the country.
The move – which could see in the region of 300,000 iPads handed to workers – has sparked criticism following one of the most savage periods of cuts in history.
One Scottish Government source said: “Most people can’t afford an iPad of their own so they will probably find this step hard to stomach. It looks like a perk. After a period where there has been nothing but austerity cuts it looks like a perk being handed out. In terms of PR, it’s a bit of major own goal.”
The contract, covering hundreds of thousands of notebook and tablet devices, will offer the latest high-tech equipment to staff in colleges, universities, courts, prisons, quangos and police and fire boards as well as local authorities and the NHS. The idea is to get best value for money by buying the devices in bulk.
But today Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said there should be clear evidence of major savings before such a massive contract is given the go-ahead. She said: “In one sense it makes sense to buy in bulk and you should save money, but technology is changing so fast you have to be careful you don’t end up being out of date very quickly.
“I don’t think any public money should be spent in this way unless they can show they will save the equivalent amount in printing and paper use. I’ve not seen anything to suggest they can save £60m in photocopying.”
And she said there was a risk that such a huge contract might end up not saving money at all.
“If you make an order so big, you are limiting the number of companies that can bid to provide it and you don’t necessarily save the money you expected.”
The Scottish Government refused to be drawn on which workers have been singled out to receive the iPads. They also refused to elaborate on how many would be distributed across Edinburgh and the Lothians.
However they did reveal that this is considered an important step in the future-proofing of our classrooms and schools.
A spokesman confirmed: “A key part of this contract will be to allow professionals like teachers to access the latest IT technology to meet educational needs at the best possible value for taxpayers.”
A 16gb iPad2 currently retails for around £329. They allow users to watch movies, take photos, surf the internet, and use apps.
Many private employers offer discounted iPads to workers – with tablets costing around £200 on average. Based on that figure, the Scottish Government plan could see in the region of 300,000 devices distributed across Scotland.
The Scottish Government contract, advertised with a closing date for bids in January, is priced at between £27m and £60m, which would buy up to 200,000 iPads at typical shop prices. The bulk buy approach will mean the government can buy many more for the same money. It will be up to each public body to decide whether to opt into the contract and buy the tablets at the price on offer. The contract will run for an initial 15 months, with the option of two 12-month extensions. A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This is a contract for the whole of the public sector in Scotland – so that includes our universities, colleges and schools. Rather than having to go out and buy individual tablets as an organisation, public bodies across Scotland will be able to access them under this contract, ensuring they get them at a better price.”