2008 was another eventful year for the regulator, the SIA, performing spectacularly when it came to its enforcement strategies, but having a few internal problems of their own to resolve. The end of 2008 sees the retirement of the BSIA Chief Executive, David Dickinson, who successfully oversaw the transformation of the BSIA from a self regulatory trade association to an influential trade body. On the business front the security business sector saw further market consolidation; operating margins in security guarding companies were once again placed under pressure which Infologue.com believes will intensify further during the next 2 years.
The security industry regulator – The SIA
The SIA faced a challenging year having spent the latter part of 2007 in the press glare over the highly politicised illegal worker issue. Unfortunately each time the SIA are in the national news they are reminded of this issue, even when no blame was attached to them in this regard. No sooner had 2008 begun than the underperformance of their powerful new licence processing system became a cause of concern for the industry. The processing of legally required licensing was reduced to a snails pace. The National Audit Office report “Regulating the Security Industry” was published in October 2008. Commenting on the report, Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office, said; “The security industry has been subject to suspicion and even criminality in the past and the Security Industry Authority has done well to set up a licensing system which has secured a high level of compliance. Poor cost forecasting and ineffective management of the licensing scheme have, however, resulted in the SIA spending over £17 million more than planned. The Authority needs to improve the quality of its forecasting and its management of the scheme so that it is better equipped for dealing with future demand for licences.” The NAO report also praised the Approved Contractors Scheme (ACS)
Departure by mutual consent
In November 2008 the SIA announced the shock departure of its Chief Executive Mike Wilson by “mutual agreement”. Almost simultaneously it was revealed in a Written Ministerial Statement by Alan Campbell to Parliament that the SIA hired 38 agency staff without properly vetting them. The Minister also made mention of a independent Delivery Review had been conducted looking at the leadership and management of the SIA. It is disappointing that the independent delivery review has not been made public nor is it the intention of the SIA to publish the Review. Infologue.com understands that an action plan from the SIA will be published in 2009. It is inconceivable that in this age of transparent governance a large stakeholder in the SIA, the security industry, is not having sight of this report.
One of the Infologue.com areas of concern about the SIA has been its timid approach to enforcement. In 2008 the SIA showed its teeth with important legal decisions underpinning its enforcement strategy, these included;
R (on the application of Nichols) v Security Industry Authority  EWHC 1792 (Admin)
This case decided that it was not unlawful to impose an automatic bar on obtaining a licence as a door supervisor where the individual has conviction for offence of serious violence when the object of the legislation is to eliminate criminality amongst door supervisors.
Security Industry Authority v Stewart & Sansara & Ors  EWHC 2338 (Admin)
This case decided that under provisions of the Act, the Authority and any appellate courts are obliged to apply the Authority’s criteria and strictly decide the applicants’ licence applications, and the appeals, accordingly. As for the construction of the criteria themselves, they are rules and not guidelines. They are sharp-edged. They contain no “give”, which might allow for merits, judgments or discretionary decisions. Further the measures contained in the 2001 Act and the published criteria constitute a proportionate response to the need to regulate the private security industry in the public interest, and thus comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.
R (on the application of Securiplan Plc & Ors) v Security Industry Authority & Anor  EWHC 1762 (Admin)
This case decided that the Authority has the power to prosecute offences under the Private Security Industry Act 2001.
Security Industry Authority v Securiplan Plc 
The court issued the highest fines (£95,000 for 19 Offences) and costs (£550,000) relating to a conviction under the Private Security Industry Act 2001.
In addition the SIA constantly kept the industry in the know through press releases of its multi agency enforcement operations revealing compliance levels of between 90 to 95% against a compliance performance target of 80%.
An effective SIA board
In reviewing the performance of the SIA during 2008, Infologue.com wonders whether the SIA Board would consider themselves an effective board using the model proposed in the 2004 Report – Building Effective Boards – Enhancing the Effectiveness of Independent Boards in executive Non-Departmental Public Bodies by Lynton Barker?
The Dickinson effect
Infologue.com pays tribute to David Dickinson, the retiring Chief Executive of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) for the pivotal role that he played in the transformation of the security industry during the introduction of regulation. Dickinson’s flexible and diplomatic yet firm approach guided his members and the rest of the industry through a necessary yet difficult transition. Infologue.com asked Dickinson what he thought his legacy would be and he responded; “The BSIA is now an influential Trade Body that is respected by government, financially stronger and better equipped to face the recession and we have developed a co-operative but not uncritical relationship with the regulator.” As one of the only two trade press representatives invited to David’s farewell dinner we believe that the tributes paid to him from luminaries such as Vernon Coaker MP, the Minister of State responsible for policing, crime and security, The former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Lord Stevens, the former Chief Executive of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) John Saunders, the former Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police, Richard Childs QPM and SIA Board member and former Skills for Security Chief Executive Linda Sharp underpins the Dickinson Effect. Vernon Coaker’s comments that David Dickinson’s contribution had “made the security sector a far better place than it was before” epitomises the general security industry’s feeling and sadness at losing such a valuable industry catalyst. David Dickinson was the inaugural winner of the Infologue.com Building the Future award in 2003. The Infologue.com Building the Future Award is awarded to the person or organisation that in the view of majority of previous winners of the Infologue.com Building the Future Award has created the most significant footprints towards a vibrant, professional and mutually profitable guarding industry during each year.
The business of security
In our 2007 – Security Guarding Industry in Review – Infologue.com suggested that the future of the security business sector was in the hands of the security industry and “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.”
A roadmap to the future
One of the key issues for 2009 will be to ensure that the industry has a single strong voice with a common voice. Infologue.com believes it makes sense for leadership to be exercised in drawing people with a common agenda together. By its very nature the industry regulator is driven by its lowest common denominator which in effect means that if it raises standards in training and licensing requirement they are universally applicable to all eligible licence holders in a specific sector. This in effect also applies to members of the voluntary ACS. Infologue.com, who is in favour of an ACS with clear band differentiation, loosely based on the NSI Bronze, Silver and Gold Scheme, believes that it is likely that the ACS will remain as entry level scheme for companies operating in the Security Industry. Whilst there is a points scoring system operation within the ACS it does not address the achievement of levels of quality and is open to misinterpretation. As the Chief Executive elect of the BSIA, John Bates, quite rightly pointed out earlier this month “The BSIA believes that 570 companies on the ACS probably means the ACS is not working as it might; because how can there be so many companies on the scheme with no clear differentiator between any of them.” Many in the industry believe that the ACS has not lived up to expectations. Infologue.com is of the opinion that the regulator is responsible for basic tenants such as licensing and setting and improving basic standards in quality and training. When it comes to creating a differentiation platform, it is the responsibility of the industry through bodies such as the British Security Industry Association, The National Security Inspectorate and Skills for Security to do so. The three aforementioned organisations have an exceptional record in delivering standards and services that both the industry and their customers trust. If these bodies were to set out a clear roadmap as to the future path of the industry, a detailed five year plan, we believe the serious quality players in the industry will follow.
Companies on the move
This year evidenced confirmation of industry consolidation in the Infologue.com Top 20 UK Largest companies with an aggregate increase in the region of 19%, (26% less 7% price inflation) over a period of 2 years. On the acquisition front we saw the first-ever acquisition of an overseas security company by an Indian firm, when security services and solutions provider, TOPSGRUP, acquired a majority stake in the Infologue.com Top 20 company, The Shield Guarding Company. Award winning VSG acquired the electronics security company Rampart Security and AIM listed Sectorguard Plc acquired the rapidly expanding Midlands based Manguard Plc. The latter deal launched Sectorguard Plc into the Infologue.com Top 20 UK Largest companies. Another new entry into the Infologue.com Top 20 was Ultimate Security Limited.
View infologue.com top 20 largest UK guarding companies – 2008
A new trophy cabinet for VSG?
Northampton based VSG continued on their winning ways this year receiving awards including;
Best Guarding Company of the Year – Security Excellence Awards
Best Training Initiative of the Year – Security Excellence Awards
Contribution to Skills Development & Training – Skills for Security Awards
Security Officer of the Year, Merit – Irish Security Industry Awards
Outstanding Act by a Security Officer – BSIA Awards
Best Use of Technology – BSIA Awards
Best Security Team – BSIA Awards
Best Newcomer – BSIA Awards
Best Customer Service – BCSC ACE Awards
Finally, we wish our readers Compliments of the Season and thank them for their support this year