Welwyn: Home to the world's first Millennium Bug Park

Welwyn businesses are to be showcased as guinea-pig Millennium bug case-studies. The UK government is adopting a new tactic to get small firms to tackle the date-bug.

MP and Leader of the House of Commons Margaret Beckett launched the worlds first 'Bug Park' in Welwyn Garden City on Tuesday, as part of the on-going battle to get small businesses to shake off complacency about the Year 2000 date glitch.

The move comes just after the Department for Education and Employment admitted that its 'Bug Busting' training programme for businesses had received a disappointing response. The new Bug Park, which was organised by the government sponsored Action 2000 group, brings together 15 businesses in Welwyn area as 'live case studies' for other UK businesses to follow.

Beckett said at the opening of the Park, that it was not down to the government to force companies into taking action. "In the end it is down to individual businesses," she said. But she stressed the danger of complacency: "I hope people aren't putting their heads in the sand thinking it will be all right on the night -- because it won't." She hoped the new initiative would galvanise businesses into action. "The whole idea of the bug park is to bring home to companies why they need to act. The government is conscious of how critical they are to the economy, but conscious too of how complacent they are."

Last month Action 2000 sent a grim warning to small companies -- those employing less than 250 people -- after studies revealed that two in five businesses in this category were doing nothing about the bug problem. Managing director of Action 2000, Gwynneth Flower hopes this new scheme will turn 'the anonymous statistics into reality', as the progress of the 15 companies involved is monitored and publicised. Action 2000 hope that UK companies will use bug park participants as a 'millennium barometer'.

The companies, which include manufacturing, retail, engineering, banking, travel, construction, telecoms, healthcare and accountancy firms, are all at varying stages of millennium preparedness. They range is size from companies employing only a handful to those with 200-plus staff. Hertfordshire Constabulary is the only public sector body taking part.

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