Thousands of pounds a month is being spent by Peterborough City Council on mobile phones which are not being used.
The cash-strapped authority, which is facing a deficit of £25 million in next year’s budget, has admitted a “staggering” 300 phones were not used despite being under contracts worth up to £22 a month.
The discovery prompted an internal message from the council urging staff to “look in drawers, cupboards etc” to find the unused phones and hand them back.
The cost of the unused phones is at least £2,000 a month, although this may be underestimating the true figure.
Cllr Ed Murphy, Labour and Co-operative member for Ravensthorpe, said: “It’s astonishing that the council is telling people to look in draws and cupboards for phones not being used.
“They’ve obviously been wasting money, but it’s good they are trying to sort this out.
“But how long has this been going on for?”
The message sent in an internal newsletter states that the council’s private IT provider Serco had identified a “staggering 300 mobile phone numbers showing zero usage over the last two months”.
Approached for comment, a council spokesperson said the 300 figure was just for one month.
She added that over a period of two months the figure was 198 phones - at a cost of £2,000 a month. However, that total did not include unused phones given to councillors and “third parties”.
The PT asked the council whether it was paying for those phones as well but had not received a response at the time of going to press.
The 198 unusued phones been given to staff relocated from the Town Hall and Bayard Place to new offices in Fletton Quays to allow them to “work in a more agile and flexible way”.
The council said the sale of Bayard Place in Broadway, and the leasing of parts of the Town Hall, was saving it £319,000 a year, compared to a total of up to £25,000 spent on the unused phones during the two year deal with EE.
The spokesperson said: “As people have adapted to the new working environment we have been reviewing the use that staff have been making of mobile phones and will now be able to make further savings by reallocating phones to new staff, or cancelling contracts where they aren’t needed.”
The contracts for the unused phones range from £3 a month to £22 a month, but they can be cancelled with EE without incurring a fee.