THE computer crisis dominating the department for work and pensions (DWP) has been 'blown out of all proportion,' according to the giant's North West regional spokesman.
John Lees of the DWP in Manchester said minimum disruption had been caused to normal services when civil servants experienced problems with their computer software equipment - contrary to national reports which hinted at a week-long crisis.
He blasted recent media coverage which hailed it the biggest computer crash ever to have hit Whitehall, with up to 80% of the ministry's 100,000 desk machines disrupted or knocked out of use.
Although he admitted there would have been slight delays in people collecting their pensions and benefits claims in Halton, he said the main computers had not been affected.
'A lot of recent Press coverage was inaccurate and although there were some delays in people receiving their benefits, this was due to a slight computer malfunction,' he said.
'It was more to do with people not being able to access e-mail systems rather than anything else.'
The implication has been that Halton residents joined others across the country in queuing up to collect state pensions and benefits, while staff faced a backlog of unprocessed claims and were forced to write out giro cheques by hand.
It was reported that Alan Johnson, the work and pensions secretary, subsequently ordered an internal inquiry into the role of Microsoft and American contractors EDS who run the ministry's network as part of a £2 billion information technology deal.
Mr Lees added: 'This problem has been blown out of all proportion, and the impact upon customers was minimal.
'I must hasten to add this was never about a failure of our main computer systems - they operated normally throughout.
'For regular pensions and benefits payments it was business as usual. There were delays in dealing with new or amended claims but we had full access to our systems from Thursday lunch time and from Friday morning it was business as usual.'