Public bodies lead charge in home PC plans

Top employers flocked to give staff the chance to get significant PC discounts in the run up to Christmas by introducing home PC schemes.

A number of councils and other public sector organisations led the charge to set up the benefit.

The City of Edinburgh Council introduced a scheme that gave 13,000 employees the chance to receive discounts of up to 45% on high street prices. Rhona McMorland, part of the council’s e-government division, said as well as wanting to offer staff a good discount, it also introduced the benefit to reach the government’s target to get all councils online by 2006.

However, the Christmas rush meant that some organisations worried whether staff would get their computers in time.

Building firm Centex, which builds residential housing, had problems with deliveries for its computers. Kevin Ayles, HR manager at the firm, said: "They’ve come from a firm of [delivery] people that didn’t turn up. The idea was that people could get computers before Christmas, which is what we’ve been struggling with."

Despite this, Ayles was confident the home computing scheme, which is still rare in the construction industry, would be well received. "[Staff] don’t use computers and are not computer-literate at all so it’s about generating some interest and breaking down some barriers." He added that he thought there would be a real business benefit too. "Now people can start communicating electronically via email, which makes it speedier, so you break down some of the more traditional ways of doing building work."

Oxford City Council also introduced a scheme, run by provider Computers For Staff, for its 1,400 employees in late November. And the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Partnership (CSWP), a body that looks after businesses and educational institutions in the Midlands, set up a scheme for staff across its organisations using provider Futuremedia.

City of Edinburgh Council’s McMorland explained that the increase in schemes in the public sector was down to a drive by the Department of Trade and Industry, which made sure it was discussed at recent public sector conferences.