Water industry unprepared for millennium bug

THE water industry is trailing behind other utilities in its plans to combat the millennium computer bug, the head of the Government's Action 2000 campaign said yesterday.

Don Cruickshank, the campaign's chairman, said he expected a consistent approach across the public sector as utilities and others tackled the threat posed by the bug - an inbuilt inability of many computer programs to distinguish 1900 from 2000 when two-digit year-dates change to 00 from the end of next year.

Because many computers are inter-linked, faults and crashes could generate chain reaction calamities, and the Government is trying to create contingency plans to deal with breakdowns in major utilities like water, electricity, telecommunications and transport.

Mr Cruickshank told a London press conference yesterday: "Water [supply] is the most worrying." But he also identified parts of the NHS, the international banking system, and the French public services as other areas of vulnerability.

Within Whitehall, some civil service sources have been critical of the low-profile approach being taken by Action 2000 - dubbing it "Inaction 2000".

Replying to that attack, Mr Cruickshank said: "It isn't one of those issues where there can be dramatic announcements." It was more a matter of grinding through the detail of training programmes. "This isn't headline- grabbing stuff," he added. "It may not be headlines but it is action."

Nevertheless, having taken over the task last autumn - when it replaced Taskforce 2000 - Action 2000 launched its millennium bug campaign in January, and Mr Cruickshank announced yesterday the creation of three working groups "to identify the risks to core public services and put in place the measures needed to maintain public confidence".

The Government last night announced an extra millennium holiday for Friday, 31 December, at the end of next year, but many companies will have to call in key staff for the entire four-day weekend to give their computer networks a live run when the date changes to 1/1/00.

Many other non-essential employees might well find that they are given even longer holidays - to keep them out of the way while millennium bug problems are sorted out.

Mr Cruickshank said that while the public sector was lagging behind the private sector by anything up to nine months, in parts, action being taken by up to 500,000 small to medium enterprises was not going as quickly as it should be. He identified as a particular bugbear for small companies, "the useless paperchase" being initiated by bigger companies, swamping suppliers and customers with lawyers' letters, demanding millennium compliance guarantees. "The message that I want to get across," he said, "is that this is hindering rather than helping."

Urging companies to "call off the lawyers", he said he knew of some companies with two sets of legal teams - one issuing letters to suppliers, and the other sending out anodyne replies to customers. "It is a disproportionate concern which is getting in the way of people actually solving the problem," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003