Almost £1.4 million has been spent on laptops for Barnet Council workers, prompting strong criticism from opposition parties.

Plans to buy 1,400 laptops were approved by council leader Mike Freer who signed off the expenditure without it passing through a committee.

The cost of the machines and accessories is £1,372,000 — around £1,000 per laptop — plus further costs for storage before distribution, believed to be about £28,000.

A council spokesman said the spend is part of the authority’s Modernising the Way we Work (MWW) programme and will help staff improve their work-life balance.

But Councillor Jack Cohen, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “I am not convinced it’s the right thing to do.

“I know we have got to move forward but the council is taking a bit of a risk buying technology because after six months in storage something new may have come out.

“It should have gone through committee or through cabinet so it was open to proper public scrutiny.”

Mr Freer said by ordering in bulk the council had made a substantial saving on the market price.

“The council is currently working through an ambitious programme to modernise the way in which it works, and by seeking best value for council tax payers we have made savings of nearly £500,000 in the procurement process.

“These laptops will provide staff with access to up to date technology that will allow mobile working, in turn reducing accommodation costs.”

The council has also splashed out £33,000 on 14 LCD televisions for conference meetings at North London Business Park, in Oakleigh Road South.

The Labour group’s res-ources spokesman, Councillor Alan Schneiderman, said: “It is an outrageous amount of money that could go to frontline services.

“Certainly in the current financial climate it seems unjustified. There is obviously a need for IT but providing resources at good value for money doesn’t involve just making savings on already expensive equipment.”

Despite the televisions costing on average more than £2,300 each, Mr Freer stressed the long-term benefits.

“Prior to the purchase of the LCD TVs the council was forced to hire such equipment at great cost to taxpayers,” he said.

“It was therefore considered prudent to purchase our own equipment. Over the coming months the purchase of these TVs will be massively out-stripped by savings made.”