02 July 1998
Computer error blamed for BCMS maildrop muddle

By Boyd Champness

THE British Cattle Movement Service sent out 120,000 letters to livestock producers yesterday (Wednesday) with a helpline number in a bid to end confusion about the BCMSs role and responsibilities.

The BCMS, based at Workington, is the body responsible for dealing with millions of cattle passports and livestock movement records. A computerised cattle traceability scheme remains one of the European Commissions pre-conditions of getting the global ban lifted on British beef.

But instead of ending confusion, the maildrop was responsible for creating some. About 1000 farmers rang the helpline number early yesterday complaining that their letters had been incorrectly addressed.

MAFF sent out a press release yesterday afternoon blaming a computer glitch for the error. It then turned the unfortunate incident into a positive by saying the flood of calls “provided an unscheduled test of the helpline service, which has coped very successfully with the demand on its first day of operation”.

The Workington helpline number is 0845 050 1234. Dr Jack Cunningham, farm minister, will visit the BCMS headquarters in Workington, Cumbria, on Friday. He will be joined by Ben Gill, National Farmers Union president.