Spending £1.4 million on replacing hundreds of town hall laptops is vital to prevent a potential 'catastrophic' data hack, a local authority boss has said.

Councillor Phil Riley gave the warning as Blackburn with Darwen Council's executive board approved the upgrade programme.

The senior councillors backed the spending, despite a resident expressing concern the expenditure could lead to service cuts elsewhere.

The programme will replace more than 1,600 laptops and include improved data security technology.

Conservative group leader Cllr John Slater, in supporting the plans, told the meeting: "Covid has changed the way we are working.

"If we don't do this properly and make sure all our data is secure there could be a tremendous impact on our residents and the work of the council."

Council leader, Labour's Cllr Riley, said: "It is important we are aware of the challenges in terms of bad people out there.

"If we get hacked like some other councils have been, the effect would be catastrophic."

Questioning the spending, local Liberal Democrat activist Sabir Esa asked borough digital boss, Cllr Mahfooz Hussain, at Thursday night's meeting: "Given the current cost of living crisis, rising interest rates, and shortage of social housing, the proposal to replace all laptops at an estimated cost of £700,000 annually for two years raises concerns.

"I would like to understand how the council plans to fund this proposal. Could you please clarify which services may face budget cuts to accommodate the cost of the laptops?"

Cllr Hussain replied: "To clarify, the provision of new IT devices to staff is a capital cost, which the council will be funding through the use of a capital budget and not from any revenue budgets.

"The costs for this capital programme has already been factored into the council’s budget for the next two years and therefore will not impact on other services.

"The current laptop estate is near end of life with the department having already exhausted what supply we have by repairing and re-using what we can.

"With technology now at the forefront of what we do, it is essential staff are given the correct equipment to enable them to do their jobs efficiently.

"With the increasing failure rate of existing devices this leads to a heightened risk that reliability issues will negatively impact on service delivery to residents."

Cllr Hussain said the new laptops would be fully secure and backed up.