Torfaen refutes Newport claims in laptop row

11:40am Wednesday 14th November 2012

By David Deans - Politics reporter

A ROW between two local authorities over 2,400 laptops stuck in storage deepened further yesterday when a council claimed Newport had carried on taking part in a schools IT scheme after they were bought.

Newport council has said that it was surprised when Torfaen bought 8,642 laptops back in March 2011 and has said it never formally committed to the project.

But e-mails, shown to the Argus by Torfaen council, appear to show a Newport council IT officer telling an opposite number at Torfaen that the authority was looking forward to receiving the units.

The iLearnWales scheme was originally intended for three local authorities to participate, with councils providing their contributions on top of a Welsh Government grant of £9 million.

While 6,218 laptops were deployed in Torfaen and Monmouthshire schools, another 2,424 laptops were earmarked for a third local authority.

The officer, whom the Argus has agreed not to name, wrote in May 2011: “Follow a meet this morning... we are keen to receive laptops and connect wireless asap (sic).”

Another e-mail, sent in May 2011 from another Newport council IT officer about match funding for the scheme, said “we are fully aware of our obligations”.

Minutes also show that former cabinet member and Newport councillor David Atwell attending a programme board meeting for iLearnWales on June 29, 2011.

They show that a Welsh Government representative asked if there were any difficulties for the three councils over the match funding required.

“No difficulties were reported,” the minutes read.

Torfaen council has claimed that the programme to deliver iLearnWales started in March 2010 with agreement from leaders, chief executives and directors of Monmouthshire, Torfaen and Newport councils.

A spokesman said that between March 2010 and June 2011 the programme was developed with Newport council, and that the council was aware the laptops were purchased in March of that year. It said that in June 2011 a corporate director from Newport had said Newport was fully committed to the scheme and would find the money.

A Newport council spokeswoman yesterday reiterated that the authority had no involvement in the procurement of the iLearnWales laptops by Torfaen council.

The authority said when information on the required financial commitment from Newport was revealed the council decided the business case was not sustainable and it withdrewfrom discussions in June 2011.

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