Monday, 11 April 2011

Dundee City Council's astonishing use of mobile phones

As reported in today's Courier and Evening Telegraph, I have queried with the City Council's Chief Executive the astonishingly high number of mobile phones used by Dundee City Council.  

Dundee City Council has amongst the highest number of mobile phones handed to employees in the country – some 34% of the workforce have council owned phones, costing over £460 000 in the period 2008-10.      

Of course there are staff who need to use mobile phones during their working day – particularly staff who do visiting as part of their work, but the fact that over a third of all employees have a Dundee City Council owned phone seems astonishingly high, particularly given that in many local authorities, the figure is much smaller – for example 5% in Moray, 3% in the Scottish Borders and 10% in Orkney.  

Dundee’s use is higher as a proportion of staff than either Edinburgh or Glasgow.

I wrote to the Chief Executive as follows :

“I was honestly astonished to learn from the recent article in the Scotsman that over a third of all our employees have a DCC mobile phone, particularly as our 34% is starkly different to – eg :
Glasgow 22%
Midlothian 14%
Moray 5%
Scottish Borders 3%
How do we control issue of these to ensure we do not issue more than absolutely necessary?   Is there any benchmarking going on between LAs given the huge discrepancies in the % of staff issued with one?”

The Chief Executive,  David Dorward, has responded as follows :

I share your concern and can assure you that this matter is being fully investigated.

Prior to this article appearing the Council was engaged in a number of workstreams on the use of mobile phones.

Firstly the Council Chief Internal Auditor had a project in the 2010/11 Internal Audit plan entitled "Corporate Mobile Phones" and this report will be considered at the Scrutiny Committee on the 20th April 2011.

Further as part of Changing for the Future programme there a project entitled Discretionary Expenditure Review, and as part of this review we are critically examining our spend on mobile phones. I expect a report on that part of the review to be brought to the Changing for the Future Board before the summer recess.

Finally, one of the problems with the Council's management of mobile phones, is that there has been senior officer responsible for telephony, and in terms of mobile phones this has largely been left to each Department. With the approval of the Organisational Structure report on the 28th March 2011, the responsibility for telephony and mobile phones passes in totality to Ged Bell, Head of IT. I have a meeting arranged (with the Head of IT) to set out how we are going take forward the Internal Audit report recommendations and deal with reducing the level of spend on mobile phones.

I am conscious that with our move to mobile and flexible working, there actually may be a need for mobile phones, and I will be discussing with Ged the need to be aware that we do not take mobile phones away from some staff, and find that we become less effective and efficient because of that withdrawal.

I can assure you that we were investigating this item of expenditure prior to the article in the press, and that has simply confirmed that it was an area of spend and policy worthy of review.”

I have asked to be updated on progress to reduce the cost of mobile phones by the City Council.    In challenging financial times it is important that the council looks seriously at ways of reducing this cost, particularly as many other councils seem to manage with much lower levels of mobile phone use.