Wakefield Council spent thousands on unused Zoom licences, figures obtained by Liberal Democrats reveal

Thousands of pounds of taxpayer cash has been spent on Zoom licences that were then left unused.

By David Spereall
Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 3:08 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 3:10 pm

Wakefield Council bought 125 licences from the video conference platform between September and November 2020, at a cost of more than £17,000.

But figures obtained by the council's Liberal Democrat group leader, Tom Gordon, showed 66 of the licences have never hosted a meeting.

10 of those had not even been activated.

Video conferencing has become a necessary way of life for many during Covid.

Councillor Gordon claimed the local authority had been wasteful in its approach.

The council, which has also used Skype and Microsoft Teams to conduct business during the pandemic, said it had bought licences in bulk at a discount price.

But Coun Gordon said: "It is unclear exactly why Wakefield Council felt the need for a third video conferencing platform, and one which was then never used for Council business.

"I've spoken to local government colleagues elsewhere and no other council seems to have taken this approach.

Councillor Tom Gordon, who obtained the information from the local authority, said much of the money spent had been wasted.

"It beggars belief that at a time when many are struggled financially, due to a inflation, stagnant wages, and COVID, that Wakefield Council think they can just waste residents' money."

It's understood that the council will terminate a number of the Zoom licences at the end of their original 12 month deal, many of which are due to expire shortly.

In response, the council's service director for technology, Darren Gill, said that the council had to "carefully consider" how it communicated with its partners during lockdown, when face-to-face meetings became impossible.

He said that many of the council's partner agencies, "Did not have access to the messaging systems that we were using prior to the pandemic.

The council said that buying licences in bulk had helped it save money.

Mr Gill added: "Zoom was a commonly used tool that was accessible for all, and that fits our needs.

"By subscribing to Zoom, we’ve been able to hold vital meetings with partners that are essential to support the delivery of services and to communicate effectively with residents and partners."

“Our Zoom licences were bought in bulk to secure a discounted rate, this was better value than buying smaller quantities, even if not all were used.

“Where councillors have retired, or left the council, we have been able to re-assign the account to another user.”

Local Democracy Reporting Service