The e-males who won't go online

TO millions of people they're a way of life.But to many councillors in Ipswich, computers are a strange alien invention they're unable to comprehend.

By Paul Geater

TO millions of people they're a way of life.

But to many councillors in Ipswich, computers are a strange alien invention they're unable to comprehend.

The borough has supplied lap-top computers to many councillors to enable them to work from home – at a cost of £30,000.

But many of them aren't using the equipment – and some haven't even taken it out of its box.

A survey to be discussed by the borough's scrutiny committee this week found that five councillors hadn't logged in to e-mail for the last six months – another seven had been off-line for two months or more, and three others hadn't checked e-mail for more than three weeks.

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Some say they're waiting for the council to be modernised. Some say they need more training.

Others blame a busy Christmas – and one councillor said he was waiting to decorate a spare bedroom and turn it into a study before he unpacked his computer!

Last summer the council supplied 26 laptop computers to councillors. Several of its 48 councillors already had computers set up at home and didn't need a council machine.

They were offered a printer, if necessary, to produce council documents.

In October a questionnaire was sent to all councillors about computer equipment – but it had to be sent by post as well as e-mail because officers knew that many would not see it if it was only sent electronically.

Only 17 out of 48 councillors filled in the questionnaire.

Senior Conservative councillor Henry Davies is one of those who has not mastered his computer yet.

"I'm computer illiterate, and I've been very busy over Christmas," he said.

"They've offered me some training and I'll get round to it in the end."

Labour councillor Chris Newbury is waiting to get a bedroom converted into an office at his home before he starts using his computer.

"It looks as if I'm going to have to get another telephone line and that's an expense – it isn't clear whether we'll get paid for out phone expenses," he said.

Gordon Terry, from the Conservative side, had e mails dating back to July on his laptop which had not been opened.

Today he said he was all geared up to use his computer once the council's modernised constitution was approved this week.

"The council gave me the computer, but I've installed it at home at my own cost with a new desk and phone line.

"I haven't been using it yet because we haven't had the modernisation introduced yet – but I'm ready although we haven't had full training yet," he said.

Council leaders are very frustrated by their colleagues' refusal to adapt to new technology.

"What is particularly irritating is that not all councillors could be supplied with computers," said new technology spokesman Keith Rawlingson.

"I know one councillor in particular was very keen to get a computer but there weren't enough to go round – so it is very annoying that some councillors have them but haven't started using them."

And councillor leader Peter Gardiner warned today that he was gunning for the technophobes in his Labour group.

"We've got a group meeting tonight and this is certainly an issue that will be discussed in full," he said.

"It's not good enough that councillors are taking this equipment and not using it. And failing to complete the questionnaire is wrong as well – officers had gone to a lot of trouble over that," he said.