The Year 2000 forecast is bad following the admission by Margaret Beckett MP that the public sector may not be ready for the millennium.
At the same time, Gwynneth Flower, managing director for Action 2000, came under fire from within her own ranks at the European Public Sector Information Systems Conference.
"I have come late to the view that we cannot be confident we can deal with all the problems," Beckett admitted at a fringe meeting of the Labour party conference.
"It is important to prioritise the areas of greatest concern and draw up contingency plans to minimise the difficulties that will arise," she continued. Beckett also warned that some local councils are lagging behind best practice on the millennium bug.
Beckett will address the Global Year 2000 summit in London next week.
"This is the level of input we need at this late stage, when the potential disruption of the millennium bug has still to be fully grasped by the public," said Marcia Livanos Cattaui, general secretary of the International Chamber of Commerce.
Harsh criticism was levelled at Flower following her admission that the uptake of the government's #40 million Bug Buster scheme had been disappointing with just 26 firms having sent employees to be trained by the scheme (see PC Week, 22 September).
John Perkins, chairman of Action 2000 Advice and Good Practice Group, said the government's Bug Buster scheme had not been properly thought through. "(It was) an impossible task in the time allowed. The government did not take on board the way SMEs work or understand their needs. It expected people to learn skills that will only last 18 months, so its not surprising few people are interested."
Geoff Hamer, head of IT and finance at the Natural Environment Research Council, described Flower as "she who must be obeyed" and criticised her plans for reassuring public confidence over the millennium bug.
"The government intends to send a leaflet round to every household saying what might go wrong with their toasters. I do not understand what the problem could be with toasters, or why the government is concerned." Perkins admitted he was "dismayed that Gwynneth Flower is saying these things".
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