Public services 'bug' warning

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The Independent Online
THE Government should inject up to pounds 2bn into public sector services to prevent catastrophe as a result of the millennium computer bug, Liberal Democrats urged yesterday.

The party's Treasury spokesman Malcolm Bruce said the Government was not doing enough to tackle the problem and should immediately transfer between pounds 1bn and pounds 2bn from contingency reserves.

He warned: "There is no longer enough time to address the entire problem. Things will go wrong. What we must do now is to try to avoid catastrophe."

In March, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister announced a pounds 97m package of public money to help tackle the problem.

Mr Bruce said the Government was expecting public services to absorb the cost of the problem within existing budgets while also achieving political priorities such as National Health Service waiting lists.

He said: "The most obvious things they will target are life support systems but what about air traffic control systems, social services, local authority emergency services?

"There is a lot of evidence to suggest that there is a lot of panic in the middle ranks of the civil service but it has not permeated upwards," he added

Mr Bruce said the Government must heed warnings from computer experts about the scale of the problem, estimated to cost pounds 3bn to correct in the public sector. His plan of action included drawing up contingency plans for hospitals, energy supply and emergency services.