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Monday, August 24, 1998 Published at 09:50 GMT 10:50 UK


Council axes computers

Thirsk Town Council closes the file on computerised accounts

A town council in North Yorkshire has decided to return to keeping its accounts on paper, saying computer record keeping takes "far longer."

Councillor Freda Roberts: Luddites? "Not in the least"
The deputy mayor, Freda Roberts, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the council had switched to a computerised accounting system two years ago, but had had "enormous problems" with it.

Eventually, she said, they decided not to persevere with the new software.

They haven't thrown away the computers, and they still use them as word processors.

She said: "Our clerk is quite capable when a bill comes in of picking up a pen and writing it down in a book."

Thirsk council serves an electorate of 3,500 and has a budget of around 50,000 a year, with three staff administering it.

It runs a marketplace, some parks and play areas and a cemetery.

Not luddites

She said that she felt the council was "not in the least bit" luddite.

"We hope we are being seen as sensible people who are not wasting anybody's time."

She said that using the computerised system was taking the town clerk, Marigold Wilkinson, far longer than writing things down in a book.

She also complained that if she had a query, Ms Wilkinson would have to "mess about" inside the system to find the information. If it was held on paper she could just walk over and read it herself.

Ms Wilkinson said that she discovered at the end of the council's financial year that the software did not "measure up at all to what the audit requires".

She is now busy re-doing the council's accounts on paper to submit to Hamilton District Council.

She said that after the council's troubles with the computer software emerged in a town meeting last week, the package's authors have offered to come and try to put things right.

Despite their problems, "we haven't shut the door completely" to computerised accounts, she said.

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