In his latest blog for Infologue.com, Stuart Lodge, Chief Executive of Lodge Service, discusses business licensing and standards. Stuart writes: “The Home Office says “the Government expects the introduction of the statutory licensing of private security businesses to come into force as soon as possible during (this) Parliamentary session.”
“Let’s hope it does, and that business licensing has real teeth.
“A rigorous licensing regime will boost standards and remove companies operating outside the law; and also provide a useful benchmark for security users selecting a supplier and help responsible suppliers in the sector to win contracts. Indirectly, it would address the downward spiral of price cutting and disinvestment, pressure that forces down standards.
“Business licensing was due to start in May 2015 but there still does not appear to be any sign of this coming to fruition. It was felt by the industry that the ACS Approved Contractor Scheme was the precursor to business licensing. But if it does come into force what will be the value of ACS? And what of the application fees we have paid, up to £2,400 each, and the annual £15 fee per licensed individual?
“Initially, when there were large backlogs in processing license applications, a company could issue an officer with a License Dispensation Notice (LDN). But now these are very rarely used. So again one must question the value of ACS.
“More recently companies have tried to use the scoring system as a differentiator but the SIA does not support this. So, as with the licensing issue, the question must be asked as to what the employer company gets in return.
A Living Wage
“Another opportunity that must be grasped is to drive up standards and perceived quality, and attract good applicants, through a wage mechanism that establishes the ‘living wage’ for the sector. This is not just an issue of fairness but also of industry standards.
“The SIA says that it is an advisory as well as a regulatory body, so it must be seen to take a lead. There is an opportunity now to recognise the living wage and make it mandatory as part of business licencing.
“We could go further than this and develop a tiered wage structure across the sector, to recognise and reward security officers according to experience and training.
“We have experience of this at Lodge Service through our sister company in South Africa, where recommended pay scales are in place, industry-wide, with associated charging rates.
“There is a grade and pay rate for security officers, for example, at the lower level for those who are experienced in tasks such as gate house duties and as night officers – and higher grades for those with greater responsibilities, as a manager or trainer.
“Pay scales in the UK could relate to a minimum number of years’ experience, as well as weighting for a London or other city allowance.
“Given the problems experienced with some training colleges issuing accreditation fraudulently – exposed by the BBC in March 2015 – recognising and rewarding experience, recorded and managed by SIA licensed companies, would be a major step forward.
“A rate increase can be made mandatory for procurement through legislation – the benefits of which will be passed on to staff in pay increases that will in turn raise retention and service quality.
“It is recognised that the clients have a limited budget for security, but the opportunity is there to achieve a higher standard of security even if it means a reduction in the number of hours covered. Even with a tiered wage structure, there would be plenty of scope for healthy competition between suppliers.
“The role of the SIA in actively working with and supporting the security sector is more important than ever before, given the current level of threat in the UK from both theft and terrorism. The SIA has good experience of working with our sector; what it just needs now is the relevant authority and resources from Government to get back on track to meet its original remit.
“Whether it is a bomb threat, theft or assault, invariably our industry provides the UK’s first line of defence for all practical purposes. Society is expecting the sector and the companies within it to provide a private policing element in support of the police. But we must have enlightened regulation and support in return.”
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