Tablet computers for Craven district councillors have moved a step closer.

Councillors have been told that in order to comply with data protection, they need to protect information shared between them and the council.

And they have been advised by their IT experts that this can only be achieved through council-owned tablets with council email addresses.

The council also runs the risk of losing its ability to pay benefits if it fails to comply with the government Public Services Network.

At last week’s select committee, which is forming a recommendation for the council’s decision making policy committee, some councillors accused the Craven Herald of failing to report data protection issues – despite it being mentioned nine times in the paper’s previous story, including in the second paragraph.

The was also an accusation that the paper was creating “negative feedback” from residents.

But other members said they could understand why the public were against the expense of buying new equipment when they saw cuts being made in other areas.

Coun Andy Solloway (Ind), who has already offered to sign up as his own data handler, blamed central government for forcing local authorities to spend money while at the same time reducing their grants.

And he called on Conservative and Liberal Democrat members of the council to lobby the government to change its mind.

Coun Solloway stressed he was not against new technology and actually embraced it, but felt the council was being forced to comply with something that was not necessary.

And Coun Pat Fairbank (Cons) said she could fully understand why the public might think it was a bad idea.

“There have been a lot of cuts, and I can appreciate how the public are thinking. They have accepted the cuts, and now it looks like we’re spending money on IT without question,” she said.

But Coun Ken Hart (Ind) said if people understood the data protection issues they would understand the need for the council to invest in new technology and accused the Craven Herald of failing to put the correct story across.

And Coun Carl Lis (Cons), who as well as Coun Eric Jaquin (Lib Dem) is trialling an iPad tablet, stressed that the council had no choice but to comply with data protection and if it didn’t could open itself up to very large fines.

The committee, which has already accepted the need to comply with data protection, agreed in principle to pursuing the option of buying tablet computers, over the more expensive and less user-friendly lap-top computers.

It will meet again in the new year to form a recommendation to take to policy committee.