Mick Lee – We are in danger of losing control of the future of our industry!

Mick Lee
Mick Lee

In his latest blog, Mick Lee discusses his current view of the security industry. Mick writes: “We are in danger of losing control of the future of our industry! This may seem an extravagant thing for me to say, but as the typical pragmatic Yorkshireman, I have come to that conclusion from what I see is probably going to happen soon if we do not take back some control of likely events!

“What has brought me to this conclusion? For many years, our staff have been trained to the highest standards in the industry. My company’s portfolio of work includes guarding, door supervision (as it applies to event security), CCTV monitoring and event stewarding. Standards of achievement for the licensing of these activities were agreed, after detailed consultation, some years ago and have been reviewed since then. Now, I am informed, the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) has decided that all stewards and licensed staff, (my italics) will require further qualification and will need to acquire NVQ qualifications relevant to sports grounds! These will need to be certificated by City and Guilds or similar bodies. The SGSA is the successor body to the Football Licensing Authority and was created by Act of Parliament in 2011. It is clear that they now seek to expand their brief to cover all ‘sporting events’ but presumably using their experience of football security and stewarding. Thus, events like Ascot, or Wimbledon or even a local county cricket match are apparently to be compared with a Millwall local derby!

“The likely cost, per member of staff is £750 – a very significant cost especially when taking into account even minimal staff churn. This coming after the imminent costs of the Apprentice Levy, based on headcount, creates a situation which should clearly be being addressed by the leading trade association, the BSIA, and Skills for Security. It is reasonable to expect that both might have detailed information and have developed some policy in this area. That does not appear to be the case. A colleague spoke to Skills for Security about these proposals and asked what they were doing about both matters and was informed ‘nothing’. My colleague asked if she could talk to a Course Developer to try to get more information, and a clearly embarrassed person said that he would ‘need to dig something up’! His only olive branch was that the BSIA were holding a breakfast meeting in London about apprenticeships. That is of little use to those of us outside the immediate London area!

“But it is even more concerning than that. Skills for Security seems to be a poodle to the BSIA – what happened to the ‘Independent Board of Directors’ which we were promised would be kept in place when the BSIA effectively acquired Skills for Security? The staff now numbers eight rather than the twenty-five in 2014 and fifteen in 2015 in the days when Skills for Security was at its best. What has happened to the many experienced and skilled specialist staff? Furthermore, according the Companies House records, all the independent Board are shown as having resigned and have been replaced by James Kelly and Dirk Wilson. It would be interesting to know whether *Ofsted have sanctioned this change in corporate governance!

“From 2002, when we faced the potential steamroller of statutory licensing, our industry had leadership, consensus and a clearly defined goal of achieving the best possible outcome for our industry, our companies and our customers. We were, in my view, largely successful in achieving that goal. Now, once again we face the challenge of a statutory body (with no connection, knowledge or history with our industry), dictating terms of employment without, apparently, any challenge! Compulsory pensions were dictated to us, without a murmur of protest, and an Apprentice Levy which is based purely on headcount and not the opportunity for good employers in the manpower sector being able to benefit from the scheme. And as I write this, I hear that the national living wage is to rise yet again. These would be highly desirable, if the Industry were in a position to pass on the additional costs to customers, and the customers themselves would acknowledge the benefits to them. In practice, the guarding market is shrinking, especially at the ‘shorter hours’ end of the market, where people take risks rather than spend.

“Where is the strong voice of our industry which reached a fair settlement with the SIA? Who will represent our future concerns? My company left the BSIA some three years ago for much the same reasons as Peter Webster cited in his blog earlier this year. We too, felt that an organisation which had decided to treat by far the largest section of its membership in the same way as the smallest section – that is, give them one seat on the board of directors, and take away almost all powers (including the power of veto) from the Council of the Association, could not represent our needs or ambitions effectively. Furthermore, as Peter said, those needs and ambitions are often far-removed from other sectional concerns.

“This is a subject worthy of wide debate and I intend to return to it at an early date”.

*This article was amended on 19.12.2016. The amendment has been highlighted in red.