With just five weeks to the millennium, less than two-thirds of smaller companies are confident that the millennium bug has been squashed. The results come despite assurances by Action 2000 chairman Don Cruickshank this week that 'the UK has risen to the challenge of the millennium bug'.
With £20bn spent on preparations - including a television advertising campaign and a leaflet mailshot to households - he said: 'I am confident the UK infrastructure will suffer no material disruption.' Only 63% of more than 250 FDs questioned in this week's Big Question survey, carried out by Accountancy Age and Reed Accountancy Personnel, were confident the bug had been eliminated. More alarmingly, only a handful of FDs who did believe the bug was no longer a threat, were willing to be named.
The majority remained anonymous. Margaret Hogh, from opticians Ronald Brown, said cautiously: 'We acknowledge that there may be some area of concern, but I feel that general areas have been addressed and prepared for.' Her comments were echoed by Peter Calderbank of the Broadcast Support Services charity. 'Lots of money has been spent on preparation so I think that certainly most companies will cope, but we don't know until it happens.'
The survey revealed that alarm bells are ringing for the 21% of FDs who said they did not believe enough had been done to prepare for the event. Robert Wallace, FD at electrical repair company Acorn Maintenance, said: 'I think there will be problems even though companies have invested lots of money.
They have spent thousands of pounds to put people on stand-by in case of problems.' Philip Newton-Webb of Premier Structures, said: 'There won't be a big bang. 'It's little things that won't be noticed straight away.' The findings will add to fears that it is the small-business sector that is being left furthest behind in the battle to beat the bug. Government watchdog Action 2000 has instead focused on 25 key 'infrastructure' sectors such as transport.
Action 2000 managing director Gwynneth Flower said: 'I hope these results will encourage those businesses who have not yet done so to act now.'
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