Data on tablet purchases reveals DWP as Whitehall’s biggest spender

Written by Rebecca Hill on 20 March 2017 in News

Figures released to parliament confirm departments’ spending on paper is falling - but some still spend more than £2m a year

The Department for Work and Pensions tops the charts for tablet purchases - Photo credit: PA

The Department for Work and Pensions spent nearly £4m on iPads and tablets in the past five years, compared with the Wales Office, which purchased just one iPad at a cost of £434, data has shown.

The figures were published in response to a set of written parliamentary questions from Justin Madders, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston. He asked each department how much it had spent in the past five years on iPads and tablets combined, and on paper.

The figures showed that the DWP spent the most on iPads and tablets between 2012-13 and 2016-17 (to date), spending some £3.77m on the devices.

Most of these costs were incurred in the 2015-16 financial year, when it forked out £3.66m on tablets alone. An explanatory statement published with the figures said the purchases of tablets related to the decision to use tablets to replace laptops for some users.

The department’s paper costs, meanwhile, reached almost £8m over the five years. But – despite the high figure – this was only the third biggest sum spent on paper, with the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Defence spending £18.5m and £10.3m on paper, respectively.

The next highest spender is the Home Office, which spent around £3m on paper, while all other departments that provided figures on paper costs spent less than £305,000.

However, the figures also show that departments are making progress to targets of cutting down on the use of paper, with some departments halving their spending in this area.

These include: the MoD, which cut its paper costs from £3.2m to £1.6m; the Department for Communities and Local Government, which cut costs from £97,000 to £47,000; the DWP, falling from £2.5m to £1m; and the Treasury, falling from £50,000 to £25,000.

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Spending on iPads and tablets is lower than on paper for most of the departments, and, after the DWP’s pricey tablet estate, the next biggest spender is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (which did not provide paper costs).

Although the FCO did not provide information on tablet or iPad purchases made before 2014, it spent £207,235 on the devices between 2014 and 2017 – around £120,000 more than any other department.

Its nearest tablet spending rival is the Department for Transport and its agencies, which spent around £84,000 between 2012-13 and 2016-17.

Much of this comes from a £34,476 investment by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in 2016-17 to equip marine surveyors with better tools for inspecting vehicles. Core DfT spend was just £15,000 across all five years.

The lowest spender, according to the data released, was the Wales Office, which purchased just one iPad during the five-year period, in May 2012, which cost £434.

The DCLG was also fairly frugal in its tablet purchasing, spending just £612.48 in the past five years.

The Scotland Office, the Department for International Development and the Treasury make up the rest of the bottom five spenders, paying £1,737, £4,449 and £5,308, respectively.

In the middle ranks were the Department for Education, which spent £60,000, and core Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which spent £49,490.

They are followed by the Cabinet Office, which spent £25,172 between 2014-15 and 2016-17 (there was no support for any tablets or iPads on the Cabinet Office IT system before 2014) and the Department of Health, which spent £15,416.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department of Energy and Climate Change – which last year merged to form the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – provided incomplete data, showing respective spending of £5,510 and £23,394 for the combined years of 2014-15 and 2015-16.

The Home Office and the Ministry of Defence said that the information on expenditure on iPads and tablets could only be provided at “disproportionate cost”, while the Ministry of Justice is yet to respond to Madders’ question, which was tabled on 28 February.

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