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HIGH-RANKING members on South Lakeland District Council look set to get the latest smart phones, laptops or tablets.

Councillors have agreed to provide one of the devices to the seven members of the ruling Liberal Democrat Cabinet.

SLDC is looking at either a Windows Mobile Phone at £150.00, a Windows Laptop at £270 or a Windows Tablet at £500.

Council leader Peter Thornton told a meeting that the issue was being ‘forced’ on them by Government to help meet tougher security standards.

To help with this, 44 district councillors will now lose their dedicated @southlakeland.gov.uk email address. Only the seven members of the Cabinet will keep theirs.

The Cabinet met on Wednesday (Feb 12) and backed the recommendations made by council officers.

A report before them warned that the sending of confidential electronic information had to be more robust so that it did not fall foul of the Data Protection Act, or cause a data breach for which the authority could be fined by the Information Commissioner.

Coun leader Peter Thornton said: “This is being forced on us by Government. I’d rather carry on using my own iPad rather than carrying around a laptop but we are being challenged on these issues of security and whether we think they are valid or not, we have to go along with them.”

Papers before the Cabinet from Simon McVey, the council’s assistant director of policy and performance, said the government’s Cabinet Office had introduced new ‘public sector network requirements’ and a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to its annual security checks of public bodies.

“Using this equipment would be necessary in order to receive confidential information via electronic means to ensure compliance with security protocols,” the report said.

“Members will have the necessary flexibility to work effectively as elected members but within the required security protocols which will keep corporate data safe.”

The Cabinet also ruled that new councillors will no longer get new laptops provided by the council unless it was in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

Instead, the Cabinet has asked the authority’s independent remuneration panel to commence a ‘review’ of the annual allowances claimed by councillors in relation to IT provision.

All of the council’s 51 members are entitled to claim a basic allowance of at least £3,880 for the role. With travel and expenses, the sum amounts to a total of £285,000 a year.

SLDC has 51 members consisting of 33 Liberal Democrats, 14 Conservatives, three Labour and one Independent.