‘If you think this is a total waste of money, press 1...’

On the telephone - county councillor Steven Bridgett.
On the telephone - county councillor Steven Bridgett.

A scheme to install state-of-the-art telephones into county councillors’ homes has been branded a ‘gross waste of money’ by one potential recipient.

When Steven Bridgett became Northumberland’s youngest elected member in 2008, he was offered a raft of taxpayer-funded goodies to make his new role easier.

But the then 20-year-old turned down a laptop computer, a printer and even a dedicated phone-line straight to his Rothbury home, preferring to use his own gear.

Fast forward to 2012 and, to his astonishment, he and the 66 other councillors who make up the authority have just been offered a new high-tech handset – even though they may be out of a seat this time next year.

“The only thing I claim is a contribution towards my landline rental, as I use it for council business,” said Coun Bridgett.

“A simple phone that I can speak to someone on the other end with is more than adequate – I don’t want or need one that is capable of cooking the tea.

“We might not even be re-elected next year. It’s a gross waste of taxpayers’ money.”

A spokeswoman for the council said: “This is part of the efficiency savings for the council and would mean that the telephony and IT installations will make savings of £36,000, bringing costs down from £53,000 to £17,000. Given this development the contribution to councillors’ telephone rentals will be withdrawn. The vast majority of councillors have agreed to this installation.”