Home & Office

Local authorities slam Action 2000's naming 'n shaming

If you live in East Northamptonshire, Rugby, Warwick, Charnwood in Leicestershire, Hart in Hampshire or Restormel in Cornwall...watch out!
Written by Jane Wakefield, Contributor

You may find yourself affected by the Millennium bug come December 31. These six borough and district councils have been named by the Audit Commission as failing to come up to scratch in their Y2K plans.

While the government refuses to name and shame the 8 major financial institutions falling behind in bug-fix plans, Action 2000 is showing no mercy when it comes to local authorities which fall into its red category -- ie. at severe risk of disruption as a result of the bug.

But the revelations have prompted a flurry of protestation from the blacklisted councils, with most claiming Action 2000 has got it wrong.

John McGowan, senior policy officer at Warwick District Council slammed the government, Action 2000 and the audit commission for its name and shame policy and accused them of using local authorities as whipping boys. "They are happy to name councils but not the financial institutions which really affect people's lives," he said.

He accused the audit commission of using a "flawed system", based on tick boxes rather than a detailed assessment. He is convinced the public is not concerned by the revelation the authority is in the red.

"If car park machines don't work or council tax forms are sent out late, I don't think too many people will be bothered," he said. He conceded late payment of benefits would be of greater concern and was able to offer no assurances they would not be affected in Warwick. "Obviously we are doing everything we can to move up out of the red. It is not in anyone's interest to have a black mark against them," he said.

East Northamptonshire Council's chief executive Roger Heath was equally scathing about the audit commission's assessment procedure. "I believe we have been penalised for failing to complete the Audit Commission's paperwork, rather than getting on with the job. The problem for small councils like ours is that we simply don't have the time to fill in reams of paperwork," he said.

Echoing his view, Andrew Gabbitas, director of corporate affairs at Rugby Council feels the survey of local authorities does not offer a fair representation of bug preparedness. "A questionnaire that only allows you to answer yes or no can not go deep enough," he said. He reassured Rugby residents there would be no disruption to essential services or the payment of benefits.

Gywnneth Flower, Action 2000's managing director, robustly defended the survey. "If authorities are criticising the assessment for being superficial, I would expect them to come out better. But I would deny that it was superficial. They deserve all they get."

Editorial standards