Councils 'have no plans for aftermath of a 9/11 outrage'

Only one in five local authorities is confident of having vital services up and running after a chemical or biological attack
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Schools, transport, social services, waste disposal and other vital local activities would collapse indefinitely after a terrorist attack, a shocking new report reveals.

Schools, transport, social services, waste disposal and other vital local activities would collapse indefinitely after a terrorist attack, a shocking new report reveals.

The survey shows that Britain's local authorities do not have proper plans to recover from a chemical, biological or radiological atrocity affecting their staff - or the resources to do so.

Carried out by the insurance company Marsh, the survey of local authorities provides new evidence of the country's lack of preparedness for an attack, more than two-and-a-half years after the toppling of the World Trade Centre.

It confirms reports in The Independent on Sunday six weeks ago - said to have angered the Home Secretary, David Blunkett - that, because of lack of funds, Britain's local emergency planners could not cope with a Madrid-style bombing.

The survey shows that the great majority of councils in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will not be able to meet the requirements of the new Civil Contingencies Bill, due to become law later this year. This would lay them open to government action to force them to comply and, ultimately, to take over their functions.

Only one out of every five councils has clear objectives on how and when it will be able to restore its operations and services after an attack or other emergency, and "is confident that resources will be available to enable key services and functions to be resumed as quickly as possible", the report finds. Only about the same proportion have trained their staff on how to keep services going.

Only one in every 10 has kept its plans for continuing services properly up to date. And only about one in every 20 has "the resources available to implement its recovery strategies", or is using proper techniques to predict future risks and dangers.

The Emergency Planning Society is compiling a dossier of warnings it has given ministers about Britain's lack of preparedness. Mr Blunkett had earlier suggested that the society had failed to raise its concerns.

Meanwhile the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology will this month issue a report on the risks and consequences of a terrorist attack on a nuclear facility. It concludes that British facilities have not been designed to withstand either terrorist attacks or an aircraft crashing into them. In contrast to those in the United States, British atomic power stations are not protected by armed guards.

In a separate development, the Labour MP Llew Smith has asked the Government to review the security of nuclear fuel containing plutonium being shipped from the Sellafield nuclear plant by sea.

Panic in the rush hour

A truck is rumbling through London's morning rush hour traffic, heading for Liverpool Street station. Suddenly the vehicle explodes, sending out clouds of poisonous chlorine gas, which, within seconds, spreads to the neighbouring districts of Shoreditch, Clerkenwell and Whitechapel.

The emergency services are scrambled but their numbers are thin. Earlier in the day bombs exploded in the Underground and many casualties are being reported. Panic spreads. News channels repeatedly talk of al-Qa'ida.

The BBC's Panorama documentary "London Under Attack" concludes that a terrorist attack such as this would probably be impossible to cope with. Failings in resources range from a lack of training for Tube staff to the fact that, as the former Metropolitan Police commissioner David Gilbertson tells the programme, once the services go underground, "their radios will not work".