Infologue Review 2007

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An Interview with Ken Palmer, Founder of CIS Security Ken Palmer, Founder of CIS Security reflects on how the security industry has developed over the past 50 Years; from SIA Licencing to the current political climate Read on »
Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Infologue Review 2007

“Is service bought for example, on the basis of “6 people 24 hours a day” or “we have a building and people to protect what’s the most effective solution?” was a much reported question asked by former Security Industry Authority (SIA) Chief Executive, John Saunders, in 2003.

“Is service bought for example, on the basis of “6 people 24 hours a day” or “we have a building and people to protect what’s the most effective solution?” was a much reported question asked by former Security Industry Authority (SIA) Chief Executive, John Saunders, in 2003.

It encapsulated a vision of the future of the UK Security Industry. In 2007 the Chairman of the SIA, Baroness Ruth Henig told a conference held at the University of Leicester ‘SIA: the Changing Agenda’; “Four years on, there are still challenges that need to be tackled. There is still cut-throat biding over contracts, wafer thin margins, wages are still very low, hours long and working conditions far from ideal.”  So was the vision wrong? No, we believe that possibly the vehicle was wrong; it should be the responsibility of the Security Industry to develop and drive its own vision of the future. During 2007 the SIA clearly laid out its stall of what a regulator of the security industry should look like. In addition to the SIA Annual Report 2006 – 2007, the SIA produced two important documents SIA Corporate and Business Plan 2007/08 to 2009/10 and the SIA Stakeholder Engagement Strategy 2007. These documents demonstrate the seriousness of the SIA to engage with its stakeholders on the future of the industry but also emphasise its main focus is that of a regulator to; “manage the licensing of the private security industry as set out in the Private Security Industry Act 2001. We also aim to raise standards of professionalism and skills within the private security industry and to promote and spread best practice.” (SIA Website) 

The Future is in the Hands of the Security Business Sector

The future of the security business sector should be determined by the security industry with the assistance of the regulator. It requires the industry to develop a common vision of what a modern security looks like. Surely low wages long hours, poor working conditions and unsustainable margins cannot be conducive with any vision of the future. A former industry leader once commented “Everyone in the industry has a strong opinion but alas, they are all different!” Only a common vision can become a roadmap towards the future only if there is consensus. As the largest trade association, the British Security Industry Association, could seize the initiative and lead, not only its members, but the whole industry towards a more sustainable industry model.  In May this year, British Security Industry Association Chief Executive, David Dickinson, has called for industry bodies to work together for the benefit of the private security industry as a whole. Dickinson was speaking at a conference held at the University of Leicester ‘SIA: the Changing Agenda’, where he described the coming months as a pivotal moment when it was necessary to recognise the real value of security provision. believes that it is important to distinguish between the Business of Security and the Security of Business. The former is commercial security operations and the latter is the security profession. Whilst these two elements are intertwined it is important to separate them in order to develop a model of a good commercial security industry.  We are aware that Skills for Security are developing qualifications designed to improve middle management skills in the security guarding sector. This move is laudable which should become a constituent of a holistic industry plan. Another element of this plan could be the development of a “think tank” or Institute of Security Business could become an impartial achieving a common industry vision.

Illegal Workers

Many will see the illegal persons working in the security industry, with the press laying blame at the door of the Home Office and the SIA as the Industry’s News Story of the Year. has studied this story carefully perusing both Hansard debates in the both Houses as well as the Minutes of Evidence of the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee. It is clear that it always has been and still is the duty of an employer to ensure an employee has the right to work in the UK. As an industry we need to accept that smuggling illegal immigrants into this country is burgeoning industry and new methods of using illicit documentation will emerge. This requires vigilance on the part of the employer and open communication from the Borders and Immigration Authority (BIA), through the SIA, about new methods of deception that are being used. In December 2007 the Home Secretary announced that there could be as many as 11,000 illegal persons working in the Security Industry.

Margins and Criminality

Earlier this year we intimated that a lack of regulatory impact through serious prosecution of the criminal element in the guarding sector has added to the downward spiral of margins in the industry. We can find no empirical evidence or logic to support this thesis. We firmly believe that there is a lack of serious prosecution of the criminal element which is an issue of public safety causing a lack of public confidence in our industry. Based on anecdotal evidence and confidential information received it is hard to believe that Merseyside is the only area that had issues with a criminal element operating security companies. As a result of Operation Seahog in Merseyside three men from security company Secure Guarding UK Ltd were each found guilty of seven offences under Section 5 of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 – providing unlicensed security operatives in April 2007. Also in April Andy Drane, Acting Chief Executive of the Security Industry Authority (SIA), hosted a seminar to promote best practice and joint-agency working across the country, citing the success of Operation Seahog. In December 2007 the Merseyside Police conducted further operations involving security companies, where arrests were made and a quantity of drugs seized. Are the SIA being supported in their endeavours only by the Merseyside Police?

The ACS – At the crossroads?

The SIA – Approved Contractors Scheme (ACS) is at a crossroad. Its importance as a credible standard is evidenced by the over 400 Approved Contractors which is almost double the amount of companies accredited in previous UKAS accredited schemes. In October 2007, the ACS released the first benchmarking measurement of the 380 companies, out of approximately 2000 companies in the security guarding industry, that are accredited in terms of the ACS. Whilst this was a positive step forward the points systems could be confusing to the end user. believes the introduction of three clear standards within the ACS will create differentiation between companies who are striving for continuous improvement and those who merely pass the scheme to gain accreditation. ACS companies could be required to move off the entry level standard within a fixed time period to reinforce the SIA’s desire to raise standards. Failure to introduce clear differentiation could lead to companies seeking improved measurement through other accreditation schemes which could devalue the ACS as an industry standard. An easy to understand single industry wide accreditation scheme, enabling demonstrative continuous improvement to occur, would enhance not only the credibility of the ACS, but the industry as a whole.

Innovation in Service

To highlight innovation in our industry, launched a series, Innovation in Service, focusing on service innovation in the security industry. It was an opportunity for innovative security service organisations to highlight that it’s not only technology leading innovation in our industry. We believe that service innovation could contribute to the reverse of the current climate of unsustainable margin erosion. When researched its Innovation in Service series earlier this year Skills for Security created the benchmark. Initiatives such as The Sorensen Centre, a modern facility dedicated to research and studies in security, policing, crime, terrorism and other related subjects. The Professional Register of Trainers and The Register of Security Professionals, are designed to provide a credible means by which individuals can demonstrate their professionalism within the Security Business Sector and also their commitment to their personal Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as educators. The aim of the recently launched Security Practitioner Programme is to provide a learning programme and full level 2 vocational qualifications of 325 guided learning hours for Security Officers, who would then be recognised as valued and competent employees. The Skills for Security course accreditation scheme also supports quality training and offers a range of flexible accreditation approaches designed to provide people in the Security Business Sector with access to unparalleled expertise and specialist knowledge. The Building the Future Award 2007 was awarded this year Skills for Security who from inception in January 2006 have contributed significantly to the development of the modern security industry. Innovation is one of their cornerstones and they have indeed created a significant footprint towards a vibrant, professional and mutually profitable guarding industry.

New Faces at the Top in 2007

In 2007 new leadership was installed at the SIA – Baroness Henig (Chair) and Mike Wilson (Chief Executive) and at Skills for Security – David Greer (Chief Executive) exclusively reported the first words of Baroness Henig on her first day; “I’m interested in meeting with a wide cross-section of people, from both large and small companies, to hear of their experiences of regulation and licensing, and to have the benefit of their views as we move forward to meet future challenges.” believes that Baroness Henig has made a significant difference as evidenced by her consultative and open style, which has lead to a clear and focused approach by the regulator.

Four Issues – One Voice

Security Management Today (SMT) and joined forces in launching four editorial strands for 2006 under the campaign umbrella – Four Issues One Voice. The issues were the licensing of in-house operatives, equal representation (on the SIA Board), fair charging of licence fees and the cutting of regulatory red tape surrounding the issuing of CCTV (PSS) licenses. In 2007 the SIA agreed to closely examine the issues. The Chair of the SIA announced that the SIA would review three of the four issues, the exception being the fair charging. So far the SIA have convened a meeting of stakeholders to discuss the in house issue and are currently interviewing suitable candidates for a SIA board appointment. This re-enforces our belief that the SIA are committed to listening and engaging with its stakeholders.

So what does the security guarding industry look like at the end of 2007? View our Industry Snapshot It is interesting to note that 80% of the UK security guarding business now shared amongst the Top 20 guarding companies as opposed to 56% in 2001. wishes it readers compliments of the season.

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