James Kelly, Chief Executive of the British Security Industry Association and Chairman of the Security Regulation Alliance, has championed the views of the private security industry against a continued backdrop of uncertainty relating to the transition to a new regulatory regime.
In a forthright letter to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Criminal Information, Lord Taylor, James called for clarity from the Government on a range of issues relating to regulatory change, following an announcement by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) that the timings of business licencing introduction were to be changed.
It was announced that the necessary arrangements to allow the SIA to start accepting business licence applications – originally planned for April 2014 – were not yet in place, and therefore, the ‘open for business’ date had been postponed. Despite this, an ‘enforcement’ date of April 2015 – at which point business licensing becomes a legal requirement – currently remains unchanged, giving businesses a smaller window in which to prepare for the new regime’s introduction.
This failure to schedule even secondary legislation required to implement the new regulatory regime (NRR) has, James Kelly told the Minister, “exacerbated the industry’s anger and frustration at the inordinate delays in implementing the desired business licensing system that all stakeholders signed up to.”
The latest announcement, coupled with the Government’s lack of precision on the cost to businesses of the new arrangements, risks alienating the industry to the point where, James writes, “the near universal support for the NRR that has characterised the industry’s dealings with the SIA and Home office throughout the last three years, manifested by the cohesive lobbying voice of the Security Regulation Alliance, is in real danger of unravelling.”
Over the last couple of years, BSIA members have broadly been supportive of the proposed new two-tier regime but there has been increasing concern among key industry players about several elements of the proposalsmost notably around costs, sanctions and scope. Costs in particular need more analysis and the SIA has agreed to evaluate some of the perceived cost increases, suggesting that certain accounting treatments and practices are the likely main cause. After that, it may be appropriate to seek an updated mandate from members for continued support of the NRR, given the evolving parameters of the proposed regime.
In his letter to the Minister, James wrote: “Whilst businesses have been made aware of ‘likely’ costs and sanctions, they require specificity in order to accurately and confidently price contracts to clients well in advance.” The inability of the SIA to confirm the precise ‘per head’ cost of licensing until licensed businesses have indicated the number of security officers deployed , has only added to the uncertainty and disenchantment amongst security providers.
This latest defence of the industry follows just over three years of lobbying on the part of the BSIA and the Security Regulation Alliance, a single-issue body formed to provide key security industry bodies with a forum where all members could debate and formulate a unified response to the challenges of future regulation. In 2010, James was instrumental in softening Government plans for the total abolition of the SIA to those of a phased transition to a new regime, and has remained a key player in representing industry’s views ever since, being one of only two industry representatives to sit on the Home Office’sTransition Steering Group.
Speaking about the transition, James says: “Following our successful direct approach to the Home Secretary in 2010, the BSIA – as part of the Security Regulation Alliance – has worked with the Home Office and the SIA to develop a blueprint for a new regulatory regime, to which our members signed up wholeheartedly.
“It has become clear over the ensuing years that there would inevitably be some compromise on this blueprint, given that the primary legislation, necessary to enable, amongst other things, a full range of SIA sanctions upon non-compliant businesses, was not developed in time, while the original plan for business licensing was compromised into a two-tier system comprising both individual and company licensing in late 2012.”
“As a result of the lasting confusion and lack of clarity, many BSIA member companies are faced with an inability to accurately budget for the impact of these changes, with the latest narrowing timescales only contributing further to this pressure. As a strong trade body representing the whole industry, the BSIA remains vocal in defence of its members, and I shall continue to apply pressure to Government – and the SIA – to enable our members to gain the clarity they so desperately need.”