AN app designed by the council cost around £5,000 to develop, yet reportedly has hardly anybody using it — leading to questions why West Berkshire Council is creating apps in the first place. 

The Route Guard app allows parents to monitor the location of ther children while they travel by themselves. It was developed in a joint venture with consultants Agilysis Ltd. 

It is one of a number of apps which have been bought or designed by the council. £60,000 has so far been spent on previous apps, according to Councillor Steve Masters (Green, Speen).

He said: “There are a number of question marks on whether or not they are actually utilised. 

"In creating bespoke apps, which replicate stuff that we can mostly do on our phones …we are trying to be too innovative, in my opinion. 

“It’s not a small amount of money, and there doesn’t seem to be due diligence in terms of what potential return. There’s millions of apps created every year. West Berkshire’s core business is not creating apps. I think it’s a white elephant coming down a dead end.” 

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It is unclear exactly how much it cost to make, but Cllr Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said he thought it was around £5,000. 

Councillors were quizzing Nick Carter, the chief executive, at a meeting of the overview and scrutiny management commission on October 29. They were asking about how the council is looking into commercial projects to raise extra revenue.

Mr Carter said that a previous councillor, Ian Morrin, asked ‘why are you trying to do what Google does vastly better than yourselves?’. 

Mr Carter said: “I thought, fair point. It’s a balance between allowing staff to come up with ideas about how they can improve services, balanced against is there a sound business case for that and is that the sort of thing we want to do. 

“Route Guard is one of those things we need to learn from and look back on.”

Cllr Masters said another app, Get Your Coat which was launched around 18 months ago, has been downloaded just 400 times. 

Cllr Masters said: “Who is keeping an eye on this and what kind of return on investment? That one alone cost about £5,000 to £6,000, and that’s an alarm that tells you you’re going to miss your train or your bus, directory for taxis. 

“We’re trying to be too clever. The market’s already awash with this.”

Mr Carter said he had not heard of the Get Your Coat app. He said: “It probably was a service generated idea. I don’t know where the business case is. It might not have one. It should do.

“Yes, there are some question marks around was that the right thing to do? In hindsight, this is probably not the place we should have got into.”