BBC on Saturday, February 22, 2003
Work on a computer network designed by the UK Government to combat terror threats has stalled indefinitely, say reports. The breakdown of the system is due to technical problems and internal arguments over funding and management, according to e-mail publication, E-Government Bulletin.
It will be seen as a blow to the government’s anti-terrorism strategy at a time when fears of a terror attack in Britain are at their highest.
The Hazmod computer system was conceived as an internet-based emergency planning service, allowing emergency services and government departments to co-ordinate responses to a major disaster or terrorist attack.
Developed by the Cabinet Office’s Civil Contingency Secretariat, it was originally due to go live in March 2002.
Local government planners involved in the project have told E-Government Bulletin that the project was “a disaster” from the start, slow and difficult to use.
Others have expressed disappointment that the system has not gone forward as planned.
“We were extremely interested in the demonstrations. It would have been ideally suited to terrorist incidents,” Mike Slaney, an emergency planning manager for Staffordshire told E-Government Bulletin.
“At a time of such concern over public safety, it is alarming that emergency services are being denied the tools they need by red tape in Whitehall,” said Derek Parkinson.
“Incredibly, hard-pressed local emergency planners have received no significant budget rise since September 11. The technology exists to help them, now the civil servants need to sort it out,” he added.
Suk Athwal, head of emergency planning research at the Cabinet Office denied that the stalled project had floundered over funding issues.
He is quoted as saying that the project was undergoing a period of reorganisation.
“It is not entirely killed off,” he said.
The Cabinet Office told BBC News Online that technology had moved on since the project was launched and that faster and better systems were available from departments such as the Met Office.