Emergency services could be left without communications during a disaster after the Government removed their old Cold War phone systems.

A West Sussex county councillor is warning that since the Government removed the old Emergency Communications Network, installed during the Cold War, councils and emergency services have been left without a secure phone system.

The network provided a hotline between councils and emergency services such as the police, fire and ambulance services even when mainstream telephone exchanges and mobile phone networks were out of order.

Following a Government review, the network was disbanded in August 2005.

West Sussex County Council, East Sussex County Council and Brighton and Hove City Council all went from having dozens of emergency phones to a single satellite hand-held phone each.

Mobile phones with priority over normal mobiles during an emergency were also issued, up to 15 for each council. But these could fail if the mobile networks fail.

Damien Adams, emergency planning co-ordinator at West Sussex County Council, said: "Our hub had 24 lines and we have gone from that to having one hand-held satellite phone you have to get up on the roof to use."

Tony Morris, a member of the group that plans how councils across the South-East would communicate during emergencies, said: "By August this year we should have had a satellite system in place with fixed lines and one or two hand-held units. Now they have pulled back on the introduction of the new system to review it, it means we are going to be on the interim system for some time to come."

After the July 7 London bombings the Government put installation of the new networks on hold while it carried out a review into their effectiveness.

Councillor Lionel Barnard, in charge of public protection policies at West Sussex County Council, said the delay could put lives at risk if there was a disaster and mainstream telephone systems failed.