LEGISLATORS have threatened to vote down the maiden Budget of Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen unless he injects more funds into welfare spending for the elderly. Angry members of the Legislative Council issued the warning during a specially convened welfare panel meeting yesterday after the deaths of at least 36 elderly people during the Lunar New Year cold snap. Another eight people died yesterday from complications believed to have been brought on by the continuing cold weather. Heeding demands from some panel members, the Home Affairs Department last night provided transport to take street sleepers to temporary shelters and gave them mattresses. But independent legislator Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien, a former secretary for health and welfare, said: 'The Government should not be given a reprieve.' Mrs Wong said she could not support the March 6 Budget unless Mr Tsang allocated more funds to improve services for the needy. Legislators from across the political spectrum demanded that officials improve the 'primitive' facilities in temporary shelters for street-sleepers. Chan Kam-lam, a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, likened them to 'big refrigerators'. However, Director of Social Welfare Ian Strachan denied accusations by another alliance legislator Chan Yuen-han that many street-sleepers had frozen to death, saying it was difficult to tell whether they all died of hypothermia. 'It is a fact of life that on any given day, about 80 elderly died. As to what extent the cold spell causes the deaths, I don't honestly know,' said Mr Strachan. Principal Assistant Secretary of the Health and Welfare Branch, Lorna Wong Lung-shi, said a consultant would be appointed within the next few weeks to identify the needs of the elderly and helpless. The study is expected to take a year to 15 months to complete, members were told. But Democratic Party vice-chairman, Dr Yeung Sum, said: 'It's better to use the consultancy fee for this study to buy heaters for single elderly people living in housing units.' His party colleague Fred Li Wah-ming said the panel should also write to the Housing Authority, urging the installation of more emergency alarms for elderly people living in its flats. Mr Strachan will meet Chief Secretary, Anson Chan Fang On-sang, next week to discuss reports from the Housing, Home Affairs and Social Welfare departments on the deaths. Mrs Chan is on holiday in Bali, but acting Chief Secretary, Michael Suen Ming-yeung, maintained the deaths proved no maladministration on the part of the Government. Nevertheless, the Government would review the incident to make sure services for the needy were adequate in future.