Torfaen council has 2,400 laptops sat in storage
A GWENT council has admitted that more than 2,400 laptops worth £1 million have been sitting in storage for longer than a year while a solution is found for what to do with them.
Torfaen council bought 8,642 laptops in March 2011 for itself and Monmouthshire council for 14-16 year old school pupils and their teachers, as part of a Welsh Government-backed scheme worth more than £11 million.
While 6,218 laptops have been deployed in schools, a total of 2,424 were set aside for a third local authority to take them on.
But negotiations to find another authority to do so have proved fruitless.
The warranties of the HP laptops, purchased by Torfaen council in March 2011, have now expired, although Torfaen council says the laptops remain fit for purpose.
One AM has dubbed the situation a "farce".
According to Torfaen council the first phase of the iLearnWales project, funded by a £9.8 million grant from the Welsh Government and a £2.28 million contribution from the two councils, was meant to have involved three Welsh councils.
It appears that Newport council was involved in discussions on the project, but a Newport council spokeswoman said the authority never made any formal commitment to it.
The authority, she said, had decided there would be limited benefit to the city from the project.
"The council had no involvement in the procurement of the 8,600 laptops undertaken by Torfaen," she added.
Despite negotiations with several councils a replacement partner has not been found, according to a joint statement from Torfaen and Monmouthshire council.
Torfaen council cabinet member Councillor Mary Barnett said discussions with the Welsh Government over a solution to the surplus laptops are "constructive and near conclusion".
The iLearnWales scheme is billed as a digital learning system, providing parents and teachers with 24/7 online access to education resources such as lessons, coursework and classroom materials.
As well as providing access to laptops for all KS4 learners and teachers, the scheme includes a data hall and ICT infrastructure to support it.
A PLAID Cymru AM called the situation a "farce" and compared it to the exploits of Derek "Del-Boy" Trotter.
Lindsay Whittle, South Wales East AM, said it was a scandalous waste of public money to buy the laptops and just store them.
"Why wasn't a third authority on board? Don't buy them if you don't have customers," he said.
"It's a farce. It's a Del-Boy farce."
The Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "The Welsh Government has been working closely with Torfaen council and Monmouthshire council to ensure that public funds are being used appropriately."
The story was uncovered following a Freedom of Information request made by www.channelweb.co.uk technology news website.
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