“I’m fully aware of the fact that we’ve been maintaining more or less radio silence since last October. That has been important for everybody, because after the leak of what might be happening to the Security Industry Authority, and then the subsequent announcement from the House in October about the arms length bodies review, it was important we didn’t give out any knee-jerk reaction.”
This opening gambit from the Security Industry Authority’s (SIA) CEO as we sat down in his office at 90 High Holborn to discuss ‘What Happens Next?’ in the ongoing saga of private sector regulation was nothing less than you’d expect from Bill Butler.
This is a man who never fudges any issue, and always tells it like it is. Both are qualities to be admired in any CEO, but particularly so given the remit of transparency in communication Butler set out for himself and the organisation he leads right from Day One.
“It was more important that we started to work on what the future of regulation might be, Brian,” he continued. “We had to work with the industry and with its key Stakeholders: those who buy security services, members of the police service and local authority officials so that we could formulate an appropriate and measured response to the present situation.”
That present situation is one about which many practitioners remain bemused. Is the SIA going to stick around as an organisation in some form or another, or is it being scrapped altogether?
What about the Approved Contractor Scheme? Will any move towards business registration signal its end?
Above all, perhaps, what’s regulation going to look like in a few years’ time once the not inconsiderable task of securing the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games has been put to bed?
From my own point of view (and, one respectfully suggests, it’s a view shared by many others), it’s pretty clear post-Austerity 2010 there’s a strong body of opinion in the industry and beyond that a good case can be made for modernising and developing the regulatory regime. It’s also abundantly clear that there should remain robust regulation for the industry per se.
Inaugural Stakeholder meetings in late 2010
“The industry’s desire for continued regulation started to emerge after the first few Stakeholder meetings at the end of last year,” chipped in Butler. “I suppose the kind of metaphor one might use for this is that we’ve developed an approach to licensing individuals in England and Wales that works.”
Although Butler recognises saying such things out loud is “always dangerous”, he firmly believes the system currently in place “deals with the basics we were asked to deal with” when the legislation first came into being.
“It’s a robust and standardised system for checking criminality. We also have a set of qualifications in place for different sectors. Those qualifications are understood, and duly link-in to the training hierarchy. We also have a system that allows people to demonstrate their qualifications, their criminality record and their identity, and to then be admitted to the private security industry.”
The SIA’s always confident CEO also wasted no time in talking about improvements made to the initial regulatory set-up.
“We have a system that does all of that in sensible timescales. The days of three years ago when some peoples’ experience of applying for and then receiving a licence was pretty dreadful are long gone. Most of our licences are now processed comfortably within a 20-day period.”
In even more bullish mode, Butler added: “If I was the head of a business like this one in any other sector, the prospect of being able to franchise that operation, focus our efforts where the real risk is and examine what the best approach to regulation might be is pretty appealing.”
At last year’s SIA Stakeholder Conference in central London, Butler stressed the industry simply cannot continue to blame the regulatory framework for all of its ills. Both he and Baroness Henig fervently wish the industry to be involved in moving regulation forward and shouldering some responsibility for how matters progress, obviously within certain parameters.
“I don’t think we were ever suggesting that self-regulation is the way forward, but what we are suggesting is that the industry has a greater role to play.” There’s no doubt about that on both counts.
At the heart of all that should, according to Butler and his colleagues at 90 High Holborn, be some form of business registration or recognition.
All of these desires have apparently sat well with the industry at large. Indeed, it was due to these oft-voiced ‘wants’ that the Security Alliance started to come together. An occurrence Butler described as “fortunate”.
Learning from what has gone before
To map out the future, one must always learn from the past. To this end, before we talked about ‘The Way Forward’ the SIA’s CEO took a step back to last September and the BBC News item about the ‘abolition’ of the SIA as part of The Cameron Coalition’s so-called ‘Bonfire of the Quangos’.
The original leak of the Government memo occurred on 22 September (a date Butler recalls well given that’s his birthday).
“BBC Scotland ran the story, and reporters began to amass outside our headquarters,” recounted Butler.
Obviously, what followed on the ensuing Friday morning was The Daily Telegraph leaking a whole list of bodies that might be subject to change.
Thankfully, the SIA’s meeting with ministers, campaigning initiated by SMT Online and Infologue.com and The Security Alliance members’ subsequent discussions ensured that what came out of the arm’s length bodies review was not the abolition of regulation.
“The original leak said something like: ‘Abolish self-regulation’. The actual announcement,” said Butler, “was very significantly different to that. It says ‘No longer an NDPB. Phased transition to a new regulatory regime’” A phrase destined never to be forgotten.
The SIA’s chairman and CEO were able to go and talk to Featherstone on broadly the same lines that they would have talked to her had the coalition Government’s controversial announcement not been made.
“The meeting was all about our views that it was time to move on, that there was a need to modernise the regulatory regime and that there was a need for the industry to take greater responsibility.”
The SIA: will it be no more?
One question to which we’d all like a definitive answer, and sooner rather than later, is this… Is the SIA per se going to be no more at some point?
“At some point in time the SIA will no longer exist. It will be replaced by a body not in the Non-Departmental Public Body, or NDPB sector. That body, as we understand it, will have statutory responsibilities for regulation of the private security industry.”
How it’s all going to work going forward is still anyone’s guess, though. “We still don’t know ourselves,” suggested Butler.
“The only detail we have on that matter so far is the clear announcement by Baroness Neville-Jones in the House of Lords [in the debate concerning the proposed Amendment 59 to the Public Bodies Bill which took place on 28 February] that there will be primary legislation brought forward to introduce the new regime.”
So there’s absolutely no chance of the SIA – in some different and perhaps slimmed down form, and with a new remit – becoming the next Regulator for the industry?
“The trouble is that’s entirely speculative, Brian, because we don’t know at what point all of this change is going to happen. All we know for sure is that the next Regulator will not be an NDPB.”
In Baroness Neville-Jones’ speech (see the attached Word document on the right hand panel of this page), the security minister states that there will be “robust regulation” and goes on to say that, whomever is running the regime, they’ll be able to withdraw approval for businesses in certain circumstances such that they’ll not be able to trade.
Butler continued: “It’s quite clear that there will be a statutory framework with very robust provisions attached to it.”
Transforming to a new form of governance
At the moment, of course, there’s much talk about Government consultation with the industry, Stakeholders and, indeed, the SIA itself but the strong likelihood is that, at some point, the entity that’s currently called the SIA will transform to a new form of governance.
“There is a clear view from Government that it’s the role of industries and businesses to pick up things like Codes of Practice and take responsibility for themselves,” stressed Butler, “but equally the Government has a part to play in ensuring that those things are delivered effectively.”
Butler was entirely right when he told me that, if anyone looks across most of the organisations affected by the Public Bodies Bill, this ‘pattern’ or view from Government is consistent. The expectation is consistent, too.
“It’s a different expectation and framework than perhaps we’ve been used to,” he urged, “but it’s a new Government.”
In the final analysis, the important ‘end game’ is that there’s a robust framework for regulating the private security sector such that members of the public are protected. That is what’s in the public interest.
As far as Butler’s concerned, what you call the organisation is of less significance, but not everyone would ascribe to that particular view.
The SIA, the industry and its client base has spent seven long years building up the brand of the SIA and the ACS, not to mention much money buying into all of that.
In addition, it’s still the case that some people aren’t totally aux fait with the ‘old’ regulatory regime, and now we’re talking about potentially doing away with it all – lock, stock and barrel.
Surely the discussion should be about the next steps for the SIA, albeit a trimmed down one with a new remit, rather than turning the clock back to 2003?
“We know that the Regulator will no longer be an NDPB. Equally, there will be a Regulator going forward, and that Regulator will have the force of statute behind it. That’s about all we can say at the moment.”
That does leave open, of course, the possibility of changing the governance but keeping the name, then.
“There are debates around how the ACS will be run in the future, and what happens to that brand name. My view is that this change, as we’ve said from the beginning, should be all about the development and building of a new regime which adds to what has gone before. What it shouldn’t be is a ‘start again’ arrangement.”
Cost of changing the regime
As Butler and his management team delve further into consultation there are bound to be issues arising around the cost of changing the regime and the benefits to be realised as a result.
There’ll also be healthy debate on the timing of the change, and the branding of the new organisation. “There are still many things yet to be decided,” said Butler.
As Baroness Neville-Jones has talked in the Lords about the maintaining of standards, Butler suspects what will be laid before us all is the transfer to a new body rather than a wholesale ‘start again’. For many if not all practitioners in the sector, the latter would be wholly unacceptable.
Butler’s immediate focus is very much on detailed proposals for how regulation will work under the new regime, and to discuss with civil servants what new forms of governance they might have in mind.
“I expect that we’ll have a better idea later on this year in terms of what the next big steps will be,” he said.
What he really wants to focus on is a new regime that picks up from where the SIA currently sits. One that uses the opportunity offered by business registration to start “tightening up on basic standards” in security companies.
“We want to deal with that bottom end of the market which can give the whole industry a bad name due to its links with organised crime, poor standards and generally bad practice,” confirmed Butler.
“We really need to focus more on those security companies who, for example, neglect to pay tax and National Insurance properly. To get into that area in any depth and address those issues you really need to get a grip on standards in business.”
The opportunity to do so is there. The building blocks are in place, as evidenced by Baroness Neville-Jones’ speech in the House of Lords.
“It would be a real disappointment if all this process became was an order for new stationery with a different heading at the top,” stated Butler. “That’s not what I’m about.”
He went on to say: “At the heart of this is what we were talking about last June at the Stakeholder Conference, and what the industry and the Security Alliance has been discussing with us ever since. It’s about taking forward and modernising regulation so that it’s fit for purpose.”
The devil’s in the detail
We’re now nearing the end of what sales people would call Q1 2011. We all know that nothing significant will change before the end of 2012 once the Olympic Games have been concluded.
Baroness Neville-Jones has expressed the hope that significant change could have taken place by the end of 2013.
“What this means,” outlined Butler, “is that we’re building a scheme and arrangements that will be around for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and so on. A solution fit for the industry’s future and where it’s going rather than perhaps where it has been.”
The SIA’s CEO and chairman have secured agreement with Government as to what the fundamental building blocks of the future regulatory regime are going to be, but the devil will be in the detail.
“I’m always mindful of the fact that no plan survives first contact with the enemy wholly intact,” joked Butler. “It’s always worth bearing in mind that what you need is a clear idea of principles and direction, and a willingness to respond flexibly to any suggestions made.”
If you look at the principles the Security Alliance has enunciated for the future, one of the things this particular coalition has said is that it wants a system of governance where there’s more involvement from the industry.
However, to get to that stage you need to change the governance arrangements as they are currently set out for the SIA.
“I’m still not sure what the Alliance has in mind here,” Butler told me. “Now is the point at which we need to move on from broad statements to the real detail of the piece.”
In Part Two of this exclusive interview, SIA CEO Bill Butler talks to Brian Sims about the change framework for regulation and the future of the Approved Contractor Scheme.
The contract the Security Industry Authority agreed with BT in Liverpool for effectively delivering the licensing system runs out in late 2013. In pre-planning, the Regulator has already been working on a future operating model.
“This is a change framework that sets out the principles we have, and what the journey will be to a new regulatory regime.”
Apparently, and perhaps not surprisingly, that framework makes for “a huge document” that keeps on getting larger, but it’s also a very short presentation.
“What primary legislation will allow us to do is address the fundamental arrangements around which regulation works,” suggested Butler. “The Private Security Industry Act 2001 lets us address some really odd anomalies. For example, at the moment if we want to change the application form we can’t just go ahead and do that. It has to go in a statutory instrument.”
To describe that particular ‘handcuff’ as absurd would be something of an understatement, but that’s the way it is.
“Also, there are questions around what enforcement powers you would need against businesses under the new regime. At the moment, the enforcement powers we have against businesses and their chosen deployment of individuals are fairly limited.”
For Butler, as things stand it’s a bit of a nuclear option. “We can either prosecute or warn that, if behaviour doesn’t improve, we can then prosecute. What we don’t have in place are sanctions for enforcement short of that measure.”
There’s a big question around how this procedure will work with security businesses. However, help may be at hand. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority licenses businesses. The Gambling Commission, too. In short, there are models in place showing how it can be done.
Scotland and Northern Ireland: what’s the situation?
“Scotland and Northern Ireland have fully devolved responsibilities for private security provision, and must make their own decisions about the way forward. In the end, it’s for them to decide what they want to do.”
Butler’s lasting hope is that he can find a set of arrangements which are broadly acceptable and flexible enough to accommodate the views of practitioners north of the border and across the pond.
“We cannot guarantee that, of course. As I said, in the end both administrations have the right and responsibility to consider and make their own decisions.”
The regulatory regime in Scotland has been rolled-out for three years, of course. It’s firmly established, and some really good enforcement work has been carried out (most notably in Glasgow). Importantly, there has been powerful support for that work. Put simply, the Scots want regulation to stay.
In Northern Ireland, regulation has only been rolled-out for a year, but the progress has been – in Bill Butler’s own words – “brilliant”.
“We’ve licensed over 10,200 individuals,” he enthused. “The audits we’re carrying out show that compliance rates are north of 90%, which is remarkable. That’s a great start. However, you couldn’t say regulation is yet established there, or indeed totally understood by all.”
What does the change framework look like?
“Our change plan or change framework starts off with some basic principles which are close to, but not the same as those enunciated in the Security Alliance’s position paper,” stated Butler, who talked me through each of them in turn.
- Principle 1: Ensure robust compliance to protect the public and the interests of the legitimate industry
- Principle 2: Ensure governance arrangements outside the NDPB sector under the Public Bodies Bill
“That first principle is vitally important,” stressed Butler. “In terms of the second principle, right now it’s difficult to establish what that will look like. The Cabinet Office is working on this area across lots of business sectors.”
- Principle 3: Significant transfer of responsibility to the industry and a matching reduction in the role of the SIA after the 2012 Olympics
On this point, Butler said: “That’s really all about picking up responsibility for the individual. Our initial thinking on how that might work is starting to come together.”
- Principle 4: Regulation based on a registration scheme for businesses and individuals to ensure their fit and proper status
“It’s worth bearing in mind here that we, as the Regulator, must ask individuals if they are fit and proper and qualified to work in the industry, not if they can do the job. There has been a common misconception surrounding this important point.”
In a similar vein, the ACS divides between two areas of questioning: is the business fit and proper, and what are the quality standards for the business?
“It’s a significant step in the business sector to actually up the ante,” continued Butler. “To be clear on the fit and proper side of things you have to move the quality stuff into a voluntary and industry-led regime while maintaining the business registration scheme.”
While Butler doesn’t yet know what the company scheme is going to look like, and it would be unwise to make absolute guarantees in any case, he finds it “very difficult” to imagine a scenario wherein those firms who are already in the ACS will not transfer – or ‘brigade through’, as he terms it – into the all-new registration scheme.
“Why on Earth would companies want to opt out of the ACS when it’s the only business leaders’ register we have?”
Is it set in stone that the ACS will disappear?
“The proposal is that the ‘quality’ part of the scheme, or the hallmark if you like could still be there. You could envisage a situation where the ACS trademark is owned by the new Regulator, but the operation of that quality arrangement would sit not with the Regulator but with the industry itself.”
One of the important points to note is that ACS companies have already had an initial fit and proper assessment.
“What we don’t want to happen,” stressed Butler, “is companies dropping out of the ACS and then finding they have to go through the registration process again to determine they’re a fit and proper business to join the new scheme.”
- Principle 5: Focus compliance and enforcement activity on areas of greatest risk to public safety, in particular supporting action against organised crime
“We’ve prevented around 50,000 individuals from working in the industry,” said Butler. “That figure includes those who’ve applied for a licence, but doesn’t take in those who know they wouldn’t qualify and haven’t applied.”
Butler is adamant this is what the SIA was set up to do, and that those figures are a pretty good indicator of success.
“I’m not suggesting you cannot wander around and find some people with a licence when they shouldn’t have one. After all, we’ve had a police service in place in the UK for many years now, but I’ve still been burgled three times. These things happen, but we know from our enforcement work that compliance levels are consistently well into the mid-90% levels. Regulation works, but we do need to move on.”
- Principle 6: Reduce the direct costs of regulation
“For example, we want to reduce the direct costs of regulation, particularly for individuals, although I think it’s probably fair to say what we’re looking to do is make sure that the new regime doesn’t cost any more in real terms than the old one.”
In truth, Butler’s confirmed hope is that the new regulatory regime he’s helping to forge will cost less, but there’s a touch of realism added to that notion. “What we’re not going to do is say that it will be a £50 million business in future.”
Butler believes he’ll be helped in relation to this particular task because the key regulatory focus will now be on businesses.
Using ‘accountant speak’ drawn from his previous commercial life, Butler said: “The multiplier on businesses is about 4,000 rather than 350,000 individuals. If you just work through the situation, there’s almost an inevitability about the cost of licensing 350,000 individuals. It’s a big multiplier.”
- Principle 7: Meet the particular requirements and concerns of the devolved Governments
As mentioned earlier, the regulation scheme must be flexible enough both in terms of its introduction and application to allow the devolved regimes to take their decision as to whether they want to be in or out.
Key features of the new regime
- There should be an independent regulatory body that’s not an NDPB to manage the processes and systems that will support the new regime.
“That obviously ties in with the primary legislation to have such a body in place,” explained Butler.
- (2) The need for a framework that allows the registration of both businesses and individuals
What’s interesting in the speech that Baroness Neville-Jones made in the House of Lords is that there’s quite an important shift of thinking involved. Although both businesses and individuals will be registered, the prime lever for regulating the industry will be the former.
“The registration and licensing of individuals is to be set within the context of the business registration scheme,” said Butler. “That situation will be made possible by businesses taking overall responsibility for how they deploy individuals who are properly skilled to meet the defined risks.”
- (3) Registration through a simplified, re-engineered and e-enabled system
“This is a big task in its own right,” outlined Butler. “As I said, our contract with BT provides a robust and workable solution. It does what it says on the tin, but I’m mindful of the fact we need to move on.”
According to Butler, the system in place is a little dated. “We want to create a solution where people can come to our system and deal with us in the same way they would, for example, their own bank. We don’t want them to be filling in lots of paper forms.”
Indeed, as far as Butler’s concerned the existence and operation of that new system is absolutely key to making the rest of the change programme work.
However, what this element of regulatory modernisation is not going to turn into is a huge IT contract using ‘sharp edge’ technologies.
“Our intention is to move forward in chunks,” explained the SIA’s CEO. “We’ve started already, of course, with the e-fill form. We’re building slowly. It’s a big piece of work to change the system, and we’re aware of what’s needed.”
Butler was fulsome in his praise of BT. “The work that BT has conducted over the last few years is as much a part of the success of regulation to date as anything we’ve done here at 90 High Holborn, particularly so given that the contract for both parties is a demanding one.”
- (4) Access for most registrations facilitated through trusted service partners
Butler explained: “What we would do here is effectively accredit people to be able to access the registration system. A trusted service partner might be a private security company, a training organisation or an accreditation body. It could even be a local authority.”
Butler rightly pointed out that there’s a cost involved in having the right standards of security around your IT system.
“You need to trust people to deliver. There cannot be a relaxation of the standards, but there’s no reason why, with the right technology, auditing and accreditation you cannot trust people to play their part in this process.”
In turn, that reduces significantly the burden on both businesses and individuals in terms of how all this will work in the future.
- (5) Qualifications for individuals managed by the industry
With Chartered status looming for security professionals, there’s the makings of a network for skills and training and an overall professionalisation of the security sector.
It’s right, then, that the industry picks this baton up and makes its own well-considered decisions as to what’s required.
- (6) Professionalism and quality levels: the responsibility of the industry
“That includes making decisions about running any quality schemes for businesses,” said Butler. “It’s clear that things are moving on. The standard of training in businesses across every licensable sector has risen. It’s one of those areas where the industry makes this happen.”
- (7) Robust arrangements to ensure compliance with the new regime
Butler “took comfort” from Baroness Neville-Jones’ speech in the Lords when the security minister said this element will include sanctions to prevent those businesses who cross the line from trading at all.
“I hope that the majority of people will behave and improve, but you have to draw a line in the sand somewhere,” suggested Butler. “If companies don’t behave, and consistently don’t behave, then they cannot be allowed to trade.”
Butler “fully expects” that there will be proper regulatory approaches in place to make that situation a reality.
- (8) The scope of the regime will be reviewed with the industry and other Stakeholders as the new regime is established
One of the things Butler recognises, and which was picked up during the 28 February debate in the House of Lords, is that there cannot be a business registration scheme put in place that doesn’t recognise the variety of businesses prevalent across the industry.
“There are many SMEs, for example. Any regime we form has to have arrangements that allow small businesses to enter the market at reasonable cost and not to be disadvantaged, both in terms of how the regulatory system works and how much it costs to them.”
That’s not to say anyone should be able to enter a regulated industry for nothing. “The ACS scheme has small and large companies within it as members, so we have a model as to how the future arrangement might work,” commented Butler.
Private investigators, consultants and in-house
“What we also need to look at is those sectors which have never been brought in to the regulation environment. Private investigators, the whole issue of security consultants and in-house.”
National Doorwatch Steering Group chairman Ian Fox recently suggested it’s high time we removed the “farcical pretence” of any difference between a security operative who works in-house or one who works for a private contractor.
“The simple test should be if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck then it IS a duck” is the line taken by Fox, and many would agree with such sentiments.
The proposal from Butler is that options for bringing these sectors into regulation remain in place. “However, you can only look at them now in the context of the new regime being established. At present, there’s no point in trying to work out how we would do this.”
Of course, you could produce an argument to say the time is very much opportune to look at these areas.
“It’s important we don’t close down the options. Indeed, the new regime must be flexible enough to accommodate other sectors. However, it would be difficult to swallow such changes now in practical terms, and also in terms of how you would make decisions about how it would work.”
In essence, then, the regulation of these sectors has been parked or postponed for the time being, but not abandoned.
“We cannot lose track of security consultants, for example,” stated Butler, “if we’re going to talk about how businesses are managed in the future.”
In Part Three of this exclusive interview, the SIA’s CEO Bill Butler talks to Brian Sims about regulation’s change framework, the key risks and dependencies associated with it and the next steps to be taken.
The change programme diagram that Security Industry Authority CEO Bill Butler described to me is the real nitty gritty that, as stated, has formed the basis of discussions with Government minister Lynne Featherstone. It sets out how things currently work, and how things will work.
If we were to look at regulation as it stands in March 2011, the landscape takes on a certain form.
The industry is regulated by a Home Office NDPB (ie the SIA). That NDPB has a responsibility for specifying individual skills requirements and business quality standards.
Regulation is conducted through a direct relationship with 350,000 licensed individuals and 700 businesses employing 70% of those active individuals operational in the sector.
Licensing for individuals is, in the main, a paper-based procedure. The approval of businesses is also a paper-based exercise, and combines both fit and proper and quality checks.
The SIA, of course, also manages compliance and enforcement.
After 2012, things will be different… The skills sector will set individual skills requirements. The industry will be responsible for business quality standards.
Businesses will own the licensing relationship with most individuals. Those same businesses will conduct basic checks.
The industry itself will own and operate a business quality scheme. Compliant businesses will be supported by enhanced compliance and enforcement activity.
Regulation will be carried out by a body outside of the NDPB sector, and be delivered through a relationship with 2,500 businesses.
On top of that, there will be a modernised fit and proper registration service for all businesses and individuals.
Compliance and enforcement efforts will be concentrated on serious risks and non-compliance, with still more effective targeting of serious organised criminality.
Greater focus on compliance and enforcement
“What the diagram shows is that the Regulator will be allowed to concentrate on regulation of businesses and a fit and proper registration service for individuals, with a greater focus on compliance and enforcement. It will not be involved in training standards, individual relationships between those who are working in the industry and the businesses for whom they work.”
There are dates in mind for when all the necessary changes could take place, but they need to be agreed by the politicians and will heavily depend on the Parliamentary timetable (which is tightly packed at the best of times).
SMT Online suggested to Butler that the change programme smacks of the new Regulator having a high-level policing role.
“The Regulator will have the ultimate say in who joins the register, Brian. You will not be saying to security companies: “Establish your own set of standards”. What you will be saying is that they have the key to a portal which will allow them to register people. Where there are issues on right to work or criminality, those decisions will still need to be made centrally.”
There are some fairly difficult hurdles to overcome, notably in terms of the changes the Government is proposing around the CRB checks. If they were actually carrying out the criminality checks, then companies would have to be registered to do that.
“It’s not a straightforward ‘let go’, shall we say,” continued Butler, “but in any event the good businesses are rigorous about these checks. At the moment, the business facilitates a CRB check and so do we. We need to get rid of that duplication.”
Butler also feels that “something rather better” must surely be achievable in terms of the individual licensing system.
“A given applicant should be able to pay to register once and then maintain that membership on an annual basis via a subscription covering both businesses and individuals. You’re there on the list for all time as long as you meet the right standards.”
Earlier in our conversation the SIA’s CEO talked about trusted businesses, but it’s also important to realise there are individuals coming up for their third licence renewal phase.
“They were in the industry for a long time before regulation,” opined Butler. “It’s about time we started to show trust in their role in the industry rather better. Those who are there deserve to be there given the robust processes we have in place.”
Key risks and dependencies
Almost inevitably, there are key risks and dependencies surrounding the new regulatory regime irrespective of what form it takes.
Agreement on funding/resources for transition, ongoing responsibilities and future arrangements
Butler suggested there are two elements at play here: where will the money come from, and where will the necessary skill come from?
“We haven’t agreed on the money side yet. As for the skills? What skills can the industry lend to us and bring to the party? We want the industry to be a part of this.”
Indeed, this is an opportunity for people to speak and say what they think the ‘Brave New World’ should like. That’s actually helpful to the SIA, even if Butler doesn’t always agree with what’s being said.
“Quite often, people think of areas that we haven’t yet addressed. That input is vitally important. We can feed it back into the consultation process. We don’t want people to regret they haven’t said anything.”
There will be much consultation going on, of course, what with the two Stakeholder Conferences in 2011 as well as the ongoing ACS Forums. Added Butler: “We’re hoping to do some Roadshows, too.”
Readiness of the industry and its partner organisations to accept responsibilities and engage in the delivery of regulation
This is a very significant change, as Butler pointed out.
“Regulation is not a spectator sport. It will require some changes in the way businesses work. Over 60% of individuals currently pay their own costs for training and licensing. You don’t get registration, compliance and enforcement without paying. It does mean people need to engage sooner rather than later if they want to benefit from the new regime.”
Butler added that “things work better when the industry engages with us”, but not for a minute is he suggesting that the Regulator is entirely without fault.
“Undoubtedly there are things that we could have, and still could do better. What I will not do is compromise the new regime by making it a penny-pinching one.”
Interestingly, whenever the SIA asks people in the industry what they want, invariably they say they would like to see far more enforcement for far less cost. “I’m not quite sure how that equation works, but I do want to be transparent about costs,” said Butler.
Enabling legislation to be in place in time
Some change can be engendered under the Terms and Conditions of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 via statutory instrument, but there’s a stated need primary legislation. Parliamentary time is the key here.
Management of risks around uncertainty as to the future regime
“This is a big issue,” said Butler, pulling no punches. “People do worry about it. Individuals are uncertain. Companies are uncertain. We are doing our level best to keep them informed about what’s going on.”
We now have a situation where some members of the police service, licensees and both existing and potential security operatives believe a licence is no longer needed. Consequently, this may well be placing honest and hardworking members of the sector at risk of prosecution.
Not only that, such confusion paves the way for the return of the very people licensing was meant to prevent from working in the sector in the first place.
Most certainly, Butler doesn’t want to spend the next year prosecuting disqualified people from the industry. “That would be a travesty. The leaks gave people an idea of a situation at that point in time, and it’s always very difficult to then put the genie back in the bottle.”
As part of the Austerity 2010 measures, the SIA had to slash its marketing budget. However, other promotional avenues have presented themselves.
“Our ability to spread the word via Facebook and Twitter, for example, has been ideal,” commented Butler. “We have developed our newsletter, too. We want to use vehicles like these that are accessible.”
Managing the uncertainty has been difficult, though, and that situation will likely not become any easier.
“For example, I receive e-mails from certain parts of the country saying that door supervisors there have taken the decision not to re-licence, and what are we going to do about it? Obviously, we have to address such occurrences. I cannot allow standards to slip. We have made so much progress and we must not lose that progression.”
Agreement on arrangements with the Home Office on support for management delivery and stability at the SIA
Some of the people affected by all of the uncertainty at present are those who work at – and for – the SIA itself. If the powers that be are to make a success of the ‘phased transition to a new regulatory regime’ then those peoples’ skills are going to be all-important.
In general, how is morale at 90 High Holborn? “When the leak was first out in the open it was difficult,” responded Butler. I don’t doubt there are still privately-held uncertainties and that the issue is a topic of conversation.”
Nonetheless, to their great and everlasting credit the staff have remained steadfastly loyal to the cause.
“People have stayed with the organisation. Our staff turnover is really low. We have the skills here to keep the business going. The reason why Government has asked us to lead this transition phase through to completion and taken our advice is not because we write good plans. It’s because we can demonstrate that, for the last seven years, we have been on top of our core business.”
Butler and Co have made significant cost savings, too.
“We will spend around £8 million less this year than last,” he said positively. “Demonstrating how you spend your money, and that you spend it wisely, is very important. That’s part of our responsibility towards the people who pay for the licence badges.”
Regulation for the future: the next steps
Clearly, further and detailed consultation with the industry is going to be of paramount importance.
“It has been helpful to us that the industry has brigaded together under the banner of the Security Alliance,” explained Butler. “The progress that has been made to reach that stage is recognised.”
A Strategic Consultation Group has now been established, and it’s one that includes representation from all the major bodies: The Security Alliance, ASIS, IPSA, The Security Institute, the BSIA, ACPO, Home Office representatives, observers from the Scottish and Northern Ireland Governments, a representative for small businesses and one for the buyers of security plus two heavyweight independents (Lord Stevens and Lord Carlile).
Butler told me that the Group doesn’t have executive powers. “It’s not a Steering Group, but it is a weighty group. This is not the end of the consultation process, though. It’s a useful piece of co-ordination. The forthcoming Stakeholder Conferences will allow people to air their views.”
Naturally, the Security Alliance is a key part of the consultation process. “We do not have exclusive negotiation rights with the Security Alliance,” confirmed Butler. “They are there because they are heavily representative of the industry.”
Five meetings per year have been agreed for the Strategic Consultation Group going forward, but the timescale for those meetings will be “determined by events”.
Butler is adamant about the need to work with the industry to develop detailed plans for the future.
“What should business regulation look like? Do we draw on Codes of Practice? If you’re working in the CCTV sector, for example, the proposed Code of Practice that’s out for consultation just now might be relevant.”
He added: “There’s quite a lot to be done. Should the Regulator prescribe a Code of Practice, or merely agree on one formulated elsewhere?”
Butler also has to work with officials in the Home Office to put the necessary statutory orders in place. “We need reporting arrangements to keep ministers and those in the industry clear about what’s happening.”
In among all of that, he’s charged with keeping the current regime ticking over and maintaining standards all the while. “Standards must never slip. That is paramount in my thinking and decision-making processes.”
Why change what isn’t broken?
Nearing the conclusion of our discussion, and having run through the change framework for private sector regulation in some detail, one question readily sprang to mind: why change what isn’t broken? Why is the discussion not about ‘a new SIA’?
“I can understand that point of view, but I don’t want to sound like a petty bureaucrat,” responded Butler with no hesitation. “Some people may take that view, but the Government has made clear its desires.”
Butler continued: “If you’d told me last June that we’d be sitting here having this conversation nine months after Ruth Henig had said we need to change the way we do things, and we had agreement from the industry and Government about the building blocks for the new regime, we wouldn’t be unhappy.”
He added: “In nine months we’ve come a long way, and so has the industry. It’s important we don’t lose track. Some of this is what we wished for some time ago. We’re on track and making the right progress.”
Getting to this point hasn’t been easy for Butler and his colleagues at the SIA, and nor will getting to where regulation’s ultimately going. In fact, it will probably be at least as difficult, if not more so.
“There are still tough debates to be had, but I’m reasonably optimistic that we have the opportunity to do what we and the industry have been saying we want to do. That is to shoulder full responsibility for the future.”
Whatever the change framework, everyone must be singing from the same hymn sheet… and the end game simply must deliver.
SMT Online’s Editor Brian Sims and Bobby Logue, Editor of Infologue.com, would like to thank the SIA’s CEO Bill Butler for his invaluable assistance with this series of pivotal articles.