Dial 2000 for police with no party leave

HOLIDAY LEAVE for the millennium celebrations is being axed for hundreds of thousands of staff in the emergency services, as concern grows about the chaos which is expected from excessive partying and the millennium computer bug.

At least 35 out of 43 police forces in England and Wales have cancelled leave for civilian staff and officers. Across the country, NHS trusts and ambulance services are discussing whether to suspend leave for the four-day public holiday starting on 31 December 1999. In all, an estimated 750,000 people will be working during the century's biggest party.

The greatest concern is the millennium bug, which may cause computer software to fail because it will not recognise the "00" in 2000. Emergency services are worried the bug may affect their equipment at a time when they will face extra demand on resources.

The police bill for overtime is expected to be around pounds 58m and the Association of Chief Police Officers says the move to cancel leave on such a scale is "unprecedented". Constables and sergeants will be paid double time and Scotland Yard estimates New Year's Eve will soak up 25 per cent of its overtime budget for the year.

Merseyside Police has cancelled leave for its 4,000 officers and 1,500 support staff and set up a unit for strategic planning. "The fact that a lot of people celebrate over and above the usual way and the uncertainty of the millennium bug place an additional burden on us," Inspector Geoff Bullen said.

The Department of Health is not issuing guidelines on NHS staffing levels, but has made clear its concerns. Greenwich Hospital, which has the Millennium Dome on its doorstep, may invite staff to take a holiday this Christmas in lieu of next year. In the West Midlands, the Dudley NHS Trust is considering whether to cancel leave.

"We want to make sure we don't have any nasty surprises on the night," said Sarah Putnam, a spokeswoman for the trust. "We have to be covered because the bug may cause equipment failure or cause problems outside the hospital among water or power utilities."

The London Ambulance Service is debating whether to withdraw leave for its 2,100 front-line staff. Last New Year's Eve it dispatched 2,073 ambulances between 9pm and 5am, one every 30 seconds. "Everyone is having to approach this by saying that past figures may not reflect what could happen," a spokesman said. "We're expecting a very busy night."

The RAC has also told its employees not to book leave for the millennium, in case computerised car systems are affected by the bug.

Unions have warned against cuts on leave being imposed without discussion. "It's not good industrial relations to impose diktats from on high," said a spokeswoman for Unison. But the shopworkers' union, Usdaw, said there would be "no shortage of volunteers" to work during millennium celebrations if shops paid double time.

The 12,000-member Information and Technology Professionals' Association has warned it will "rigorously oppose" any attempt to cancel leave for computer specialists.

Fire brigades will not cancel leave because they operate at high alert at all times.

t McDonald's the US fast food chain, plans to sponsor one of the 14 zones in the Millennium Dome for pounds 12m, as well as being one of the 30 food outlets.

Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik joked last week, that the hamburger giant "would probably try to reduce it to a large McDome and fries."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need