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Office equipment budget from year 2019 2020

0 votes
Hello all, back in January 2020 the clerk told the council that she’s having a new office built at her home which she moved into a year or so earlier and needed new office equipment for it, what she has is old and tatty, at that same meeting the council set a budget of £1000 for new office equipment, within a week she had a new printer (old one broken?) it seems this wasn’t included in this budget, why I asked? because it wasn’t I was told, fast forward to end of April 2021 the clerk sends out an email saying she wants to order a new P.C. Filing cabinets, office chair, computer programs etc, totals some £1186:00 and can she order speakers and web cam on top? most councillors seemed happy to let her do this, I said the budget was set at £1000 only (set 16 months earlier in a previous year’s budget) is it ok to do this or not? ie go over budget and what should the procedure be as we are in a totally different budget year?
asked by (400 points)

2 Answers

0 votes
Unless the filing cabinets are broken, I think she should not be allowed to buy new ones.  A good clerk should be seeking to move to a paperless office and not seeking to increase paper storage. Only signed copies of minutes need to be retained in hard copy form.  Other paper records should be scanned and indexed.  Any call for office equipment finance should be itemised and checks should be made to ensure the old PC lacks sufficient memory, processor speed and hard disc capacity to justify renewal.  The clerk should provide a spec for the new PC & software installed on it  too so that cllrs are not paying for something that is way overspecified.  For example there are various incarnations of Office 365 - is the Clerk using that now, and has anyone read the terms of licensing f it?
answered by (22.4k points)
Out of interest, where a clerk has multiple councils, do they have to have a separate laptop for each one?
Thank you for your reply Graeme_r, My concern is the budget issues, having been Granted 1000 pound can the clerk just spend what she wants regardless of cost which means going over a budget set for her in a different Financial year? What are the financial laws on this? She is saying £1000 isn’t a realistic amount in this day and age and has put it onto the agenda for the next meeting.
Shelley - there are many good reasons for each council to own a laptop (data protection etc), but the most important consideration is what will happen when the clerk resigns? A parish council laptop and a non-personal email address (clerk@...) facilitates a seamless transition from one to the next.
There is probably no law against the Clerk spending the £1,000, but all your cllrs have a duty to ensure the precept is spent prudently to avoid making a false declaration on your AGAR on the financial control questions. I would ask her to provide an itemized list with prices of the equipment she plans to buy with the grand.  All cllrs should then look at the items and prices on the list and do some quick checks in PC World etc to see how prices compare. If she budgets £700 for a laptop, see what you can get for £700 and ask yourself is it more than enough to do the job.
The Clerk should not use one laptop or on desktop to carry out their duties for multiple councils. To do so would mean that any of the councils would become a data holder for other personal data that they were not entitled to hold or process.  This would be a breach of GDPR 2018 regulations.

Appreciate if you could provide a specific reference for your assertion that a single IT system is NOT compliant with GDPR if used for multiple PCs.

This appears to be a rather "odd" statement to make unless you actually have a specific reference to support it.

For example, if 1 clerk served multiple PCs what is to say each PC shouldn't have a separate removable disk drive with only that PCs data stored upon it - password protected and backed up with only the clerk and nominated personnel from each individual PC with read/write permissions.
No individual PC would have access to any other PCs data.

If, 1 clerk were serving several PCs (probably over an extended period of time) and those PCs were able to enter into a SLA for the provision of one desktop IT solution, that would represent a significant saving across all of them.  It's not rocket science really, just needs the sort of pan organisational capacity that should be expected of 1 clerk serving several PCs.

People often 'hide behind' GDPR as the reason NOT to do something rather than actually embracing what the regulations require and that which technology can provide - a bit like Elf and safety.

If you have a specific reference which states GDPR precludes such collaborative and cost effective means of working it would be great to read it.
When our council was in the process of purchasing a new laptop, we were advised by our clerk that there was no data required to be transferred to the replacement laptop as everything was "in the cloud", so surely in this case with the correct protocols in place it should be possible to share certain IT equipment?
Cloud storage is certainly a bonus and probably what we'll all be doing in a few years' time, so if you are able to store absolutely everything remotely, sharing hardware may be possible.
Cloud storage - I can't think of a reason why one wouldn't.  GDPR even makes provision for "joint controllers" - but I wouldn't expect that would even be necessary.  A single monitor with removable / securable hard disk drive or cloud storage provides more than adequate separation and security of distinct data sets.

Having been through a clerk "resignation" (which resulted in a threat (from the clerk) of ind tribunal but quickly dissolved once it was made known that a fraud investigation would follow) and that that clerk took unilateral action to forensically wipe the PC laptop before departure, I'd suggest any OTHER than sole reliance on a single data storage solution.
Imagine a single clerk working for, say, 5 PCs (I don't know if that's feasible or not), that's 5 IT systems, 5 software packages, 5 licensing agreements, 5 printers and there is no real opportunity for any 1 PC to have any knowledge or visibility of what that clerk is drawing down from other PCs.

In the example I mention above about the "resignation", that individual was working more than 1 PC.  It was even thought that he was claiming more hours in total from the combined PC/TCs than were actually available in a working week.  Nice work if you can get it!
If the laptop user works off separate hard, secure cloud or Network drives for each authority and stores nothing on the C drive then the laptop could be being used in a GDPR  compliant manner.  But we don't actually know that is the case. Using one laptop for several authorities could cause other issues, for example if the clerk is off sick which deputy clerk from the authorities would get the use of it. The cost of a laptop is not prohibitive, and one per parish council takes away the possibility of GDPR compliance. Software costs may be reduced by using the right Office 365 licensing.
So there is a bit of a contradiction in your previous posts then?

"...all your cllrs have a duty to ensure the precept is spent prudently to avoid making a false declaration on your AGAR on the financial control questions..."

"...The Clerk should not use one laptop or on desktop to carry out their duties for multiple councils...This would be a breach of GDPR 2018 regulations..."
Cllr's should ensure prudent expenditure and this 'might' include exploring cost effective ways of utilising tech and IT.

The combined use of shared IT equipment across multiple PCs [of itself] does NOT create a breach of GDPR regs.
0 votes
If the amount set aside in last year's budget was not used, it, or any remaining part of it, reverts to general reserve. If the intention was still to go ahead with the purchase, provision should have been made again in the new year's budget. If there is no provision for this expenditure in the current year's budget, but the council determines that the expenditure is necessary and appropriate, the council should agree and minute a virement of funds from general reserve to the appropriate accounting heading, in accordance with financial regulation 4.2, if you're using the current model. The tendering/quoting requirements of the financial regulations should be applied to each item of equipment on the shopping list, to ensure that best value is achieved.
answered by (32.8k points)

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