The iPads have it - council to vote via tablet

Councillors are to vote via tablet devices to help make results available more quickly. Pic Greg Macvean
Councillors are to vote via tablet devices to help make results available more quickly. Pic Greg Macvean
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THEY have been a source of controversy since distracting one working councillor with a game of solitaire.

But iPads are now set to provide a digital shot in the arm to decision-making in the Capital.

Tablet-based e-voting is to be introduced to city council committee meetings – consigning the age-old system of nods, hand-raising and standing to the history books.

A new app will allow votes to be counted, gathered and published with far more speed and accuracy than was previously possible.

Although iPads last year landed Conservative councillor Jeremy Balfour in hot water when he was caught playing games during a public petitions meeting, city chiefs hope the devices will help boost accountability and transparency.

It is understood the council’s website will also be redesigned to offer rapid access to data revealing who voted for what.

Community campaigners have described the change as positive but said modernising Edinburgh’s political culture would take more than an overhaul of the voting process.

Rosy Barnes, spokeswoman for the Friends of Craighouse campaign group, which last week lost its bid to halt a 
£90 million housing development at the former Napier University campus, said: “Digital voting is to be welcomed if results are made properly, immediately and widely available – but they could record that information now.

“It doesn’t replace proper process in the planning system. What people saw last Wednesday shocked them. No proper consideration of policies, and with many councillors apparently ignorant of the planning report and documents.

“It shocked everyone that streams of policies and protections on a site of national importance were just thrown aside so casually on such a protected site in the face of thousands of objections.”

She added: “I hope new measures will lead to more accountability – but I’m afraid there’s a lot more that needs to change in the council than just getting a new app.”

Opposition politicians said the new app – produced by city-based Deko – would boost public scrutiny of local ­government.

Councillor Steve Burgess, of the Edinburgh Greens, said: “Electronic voting is not going to revolutionise the council overnight but it is a small step in the direction of making the council more transparent and accountable – as long as it extends to all committees, where many of the key decisions are made.

“The real benefit, from a public perspective, is likely to be identification of how individual councillors voted. That matters on controversial issues like when closure of Castlebrae High School was threatened or, just last week, with the planning decision at Craighouse.”

City leader Andrew Burns agreed, adding: “[Allowing residents to see who voted for what] will make the democratic process even more accountable and transparent.”