Following on from yesterday’s joint statement by SMT Online and Infologue.com, the sector’s major bodies have now voiced their opinions on the future of the SIA. Brian Sims and Bobby Logue report.
Having been contacted by SMT Online and Infologue.com, major stakeholders in the regulation arena – including The Security Institute, the BSIA, Skills for Security and NOCN – have all issued statements in the wake of the BBC News report concerning a leaked document from the Home Office which apparently makes comment about the possible future of the Security Industry Authority (SIA).
A fulsome, considered statement was issued by The Security Institute yesterday afternoon following extensive consultations involving chairman Mike Bluestone.
“The Security Institute has noted with concern an unconfirmed media report [on BBC News] that Her Majesty’s Government may abolish the Security Industry Authority.
“The SIA was established as a direct result of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 with a remit to eliminate criminality in the UK’s private security sector, and to help in raising standards.
“The private security industry broadly welcomed the introduction of regulation, notwithstanding some concerns regarding the actual drafting of the Act. Indeed, The Security Institute has continued to support the work of the Security Industry Authority since its inception, all the while maintaining close ties.
“There can be no doubt that, since the introduction of regulation, there has been a notable reduction in the extent of criminal involvement and influences in the private security sector. This has enabled increased confidence and trust in the private security sector on the part of the police and, indeed, the British public in general.
“Any steps taken which would damage such trust and confidence would, in our view, be a retrograde act, with the potential to threaten public safety and security in the United Kingdom at a time of continuing threats from terrorism.
“The Security Institute will be waiting with significant concern to learn more about these potential developments. Our 1,000 members represent a cross-section of the UK security sector, and they will want to know that the interests of public safety and security will be the key criteria in any decision-making undertaken by Her Majesty’s Government.”
Comment from the Trade Association
James Kelly – chief executive at the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) – has this to say on the matter: “At this stage it’s unclear as to what the Home Office’s proposal relating to the future of the SIA is going to be and, therefore, it’s inappropriate to speculate over the future of regulation.
“However, as the leading Trade Association representing the UK’s private security industry, the BSIA strongly urges the Government to engage with industry at the earliest possible stage to ensure that the right decision is made regarding the future of the SIA.
“Subject to more detailed consultation with our members, the BSIA has already communicated to the SIA its support for the future direction of regulation that the Authority’s chairman, Baroness Ruth Henig, indicated at the recent Annual Stakeholder Conference, in particular its proposed partnership with industry.
“While we expect the shift toward lighter touch regulation will be welcomed by the industry at large, we feel that it’s essential for licensing and regulation to continue in some form due to the pivotal role they have played in the ongoing professionalisation of the industry.
“Regardless of what changes are afoot in our industry, the BSIA feels that it’s of paramount importance the law continues to be enforced and licenses properly issued in order to maintain and build upon the progress that has been made since the SIA’s inception.”
Comment from Skills for Security’s CEO
David Greer, the chief executive of Skills for Security, has also responded to media reports that the SIA may be about to become a victim of Government spending cuts in the public sector. Greer commented:
“At the instigation of both the security industry and Government, the Private Security Industry Act was introduced back in 2001.
“The implementation of the Act and its regulation is now complete in all four home nations of the UK. There’s almost universal agreement across the sector that regulation and its enforcement by the SIA has delivered, and continues to deliver, results which reduce criminality and enhance public safety.
“In considering any change as to how regulation is delivered, the Government needs to reflect on the critical role that modern security companies and their staff – working alongside the police services – have in the protection of the public, business assets and the Critical National Infrastructure. Jeopardising that work ahead of the delivery of a safe and secure 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and 2014 Commonwealth Games seems injudicious and unnecessarily risky.
“As the organisation responsible for setting skills standards across the industry, Skills for Security wholly supports the work of the Regulator and the progress we’ve made together over the last five years and more in raising skills levels and helping to further professionalise the industry.
“The SIA has shown itself ready to move forward, and to explore with industry and its representatives how a new model of regulation might be developed: a model that includes a greater degree of self-regulation and responsibility for standards on the part of the industry.
“This can surely only serve to augment the relationship of trust and confidence between the police and security services – a relationship which has been hard won but could be so easily lost.”
Comment from the National Open College Network
Dr David Hutchinson (the lead officer responsible for security industry qualifications at the National Open College Network) has also aired his views.
“First of all, Brian, can I commend the initiative taken by yourself and Bobby Logue on the issue of the future of the SIA. The response in your joint statement yesterday is mature and statesmanlike. Exactly what was needed in the current situation.
“As a major player in SIA licensing, the National Open College Network (NOCN) has accredited a very significant number of candidates seeking to obtain a licence. I feel there’s great danger in the present situation which, if not handled correctly, could undo all of the good work that has been done since the introduction of licensing.
“This industry could be taken back to the situation as it was prior to regulation being enforced.
“Good progress has been made since 2003. Having embraced the requirements of licensing, many security companies do an excellent job in training and developing their staff. No better example of which can be found in the Cash-and-Valuables-in-Transit sector, but this is by no means the full picture and many organisations still have a long way to go.
“From my own perspective, while the number of candidates seeking licences has now diminished following the introduction of the requirement to hold a licence by a specific date, the amount of training and examination malpractice has not gone down. Awarding Bodies still have to fight a constant battle against those who wish to subvert the rules for whatever reason.
“Recently, following the introduction of physical intervention training and the enhanced centre approval requirements that go with this high risk area, it’s interesting to have witnessed how many players have suddenly left the scene. In my view, in many cases their departure will not be lamented, but without the existence and support of a Regulator for the private security industry they will be back!
“I’m not at all sure where this possible demise of the SIA has come from. To argue that it’s all part of a drive to cut Government costs doesn’t hold much credence, particularly as the SIA is self-financing. Perhaps it’s more representative of a move on the part of some sections of the business who have never been in favour of licensing and the costs realised by it.
“Whatever their motives, however, what they should know is that the removal of the SIA would have the effect of decreasing public confidence in the business sector and increasing the risk to public safety – two things that the SIA was established to deal with, and in which it has been successful.
“This must be something that no-one wishes to see at any time, but one that is even more important in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic Games. If my own analysis is correct, not only would public safety be put at risk but also the very businesses that they seek to protect.
“Yes, there are things that could be done better. With additional Government support for the industry and the SIA rather than less, improvements could be made. As you and Bobby quite rightly say, however, what’s very important at this time is a calm and considered approached with all parties working together to seek a successful resolution.”
Over 150 public bodies facing the axe.
Late last night, just prior to the BBC’s own 10 o’clock main news bulletin, The Daily Telegraph’s political editor Andrew Porter suggested on the newspaper’s excellent website that 177 tax payer-funded bodies may be abolished by the Government.
According to a Cabinet Office list compiled earlier this week, and to which The Daily Telegraph has been privy, a further 94 are still under threat of being scrapped, four will be privatised and a further 129 will be merged. 350 other such bodies have apparently won a reprieve.
Thousands of jobs are likely to go as part of the coalition Government’s much-talked about ‘Bonfire of the Quangos’. According to Porter’s news article, the most extensive cuts focus on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (with more than 50 bodies to be abolished), and the Department of Health, where something in the region of 30 bodies will be cut (or at the very least have their functions transferred back to the main Government department).
Apparently, the BBC World Service, the British Council and the Environment Agency are among the 94 publicly-funded bodies whose fate has yet to be decided by Cameron and Co.
Meantime, the Competition Commission, the Design Council, the Energy Savings Trust, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Forestry Commission and the Office for Fair Trading are also still at risk.
In his comprehensive report, Porter goes on to state: “Whitehall insiders expect the majority to be abolished, removed from public funding or radically reformed.”
As stated, although job losses will result from this massive Government ‘shakedown’ in the public sector, coalition ministers will likely point to the billions of pounds that can be saved after the number of taxpayer-funded quangos soared out of control under New Labour (reaching costs of an estimated £65 billion per year while employing more than 100,000 people).