Sizing up public sector contracts

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.Image

As regular readers of my blogs will know, the way that central government contracts are allocated, awarded and serviced has, for a long time, been a cause of deep concern for me. The situation can be summed up quite simply – small contracts go to small organisations, while major contracts usually go to one single industry behemoth. The one thing that should have been learned from several well publicised major contract failures was that putting all the eggs in one basket is foolhardy and risks a disaster.

It’s a lesson that appeared to have been heeded when Matt Hancock, the minister for the Cabinet Office, recently announced an ambitious new target to get more SMEs working on central government contracts. The headline is that £1 in every £3 in government spend will be with small businesses by 2020. It certainly sounds like a step in the right direction, however, when scratching the surface it means that when it comes to larger ‘super’ contracts very little will change. Why is this? Because what constitutes an SME in one industry does not necessarily translate to another.

The government defines a company as an SME if it meets two out of three criteria – it has a turnover of less than £25m, it has less than 250 employees and/or it has gross assets of less than £12.5m. Within the security sector there is a significant number of businesses with well over 250 employees – and that means that for many organisations in our industry and others that are similarly labour intensive, this latest announcement could actually make a bad situation worse.

In reality a security company with less than 250 employees is likely to have a maximum turnover of around £6m, therefore, it would be unlikely to have a professional infrastructure for compliance, health and safety or human resources. These are abilities a company will need to meet the rigors of public sector contracts.

What this latest development means in reality is that security companies with 250 people or under are unlikely to get a bigger piece of the action due to their lack of professional specialist resources whilst, at the other end of the scale, the industry’s biggest players will continue to get the larger contracts. By definition, companies in the middle with, for example, 2,000 to 3,000 employees, and the specialist resources available, will miss out at both ends of the spectrum.

Inviting a greater number companies that are bigger than SMEs, but not in the same league as G4S and Serco, to handle these large contracts would increase attention to detail, transparency, competiveness and innovation. Just as importantly, being able to benchmark across a whole range of suppliers would keep prices in check. This is in stark contrast to the status quo, which offers no impetus to innovate and simply engenders a culture of complacency.

The government is well aware of this issue, as in late 2014 The Commons Public Accounts Committee said that it was too reliant on a small number of private sector contractors to provide a swathe of public services. Margaret Hodge, the Committee’s Labour chairman, warned against quasi-monopoly suppliers becoming too important to fail, and encouraged competition through, for example, splitting up contracts to encourage SMEs to bid for work.

Although this sentiment is entirely appropriate, its fails to recognise the logistical issues that must be addressed when awarding security contracts. It would be expensive and wholly impractical to invite numerous companies with less that 250 personnel to tender for contracts where 3,000 manned guards are required. On the other hand it would make perfect sense to invite applications from three organisations that could provide 1,000 trained and fully licensed people.

This is exactly the type of situation that this latest government initiative fails to recognise – and one that could lead to problems in the future. These ‘bigger than SME’ sized companies combine the ability to carry out large-scale assignments with the kind of attention to detail that smaller organisations often display. This makes them able to hit a ‘sweet spot’ by offering the size to handle demanding contracts, but still being flexible and responsive, while delivering on their promises and reducing the potential for problems.

Although it is probably through accident rather than design, I can’t help thinking that the glaring omission in this initiative this is a missed opportunity for a significant proportion of the companies in this sector. Until a more inclusive and wide-ranging procurement policy is put in place, it could well mean that history repeats itself, and perhaps it’s time to redefine what constitutes an SME in the security industry.

Will CSAS do the security industry the power of good?

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.Image

When the Police Reform Act 2002 came into effect, many of us focused on its creation of police community support officers (PCSOs). The fact that it also introduced the ability for chief constables to confer a limited range of police powers on other individuals as part of the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS) often slipped under the radar. 13 years later this legislation is starting to affect the security industry, and the pros and cons of it appear equally weighted.

To sum it up, CSAS allows people to do some of the work usually carried out by police officers, by giving ‘accredited persons’ limited but targeted powers appropriate to their roles. Accredited persons can act upon a range of issues such as littering, underage drinking and graffiti, as well as dealing with general incidents of antisocial behaviour. While they do not have the power to detain or arrest, it is an offence for an individual to refuse to provide an accredited person with their name and address, or assault and obstruct them.

In the early days of CSAS, the response by police forces to private security organisations taking on additional powers was lukewarm at best, but the last few years have seen greater use of CSAS. Despite this, the Home Office appears reluctant to provide annually updated nationwide figures – the last survey it conducted was way back in December 2010 and showed there were 26 forces participating in the scheme with 2,219 individuals accredited with specific powers. Those numbers are certainly different now.

Another of the reasons for the initial low profile of CSAS was that police services had not experienced the cuts that they are dealing with today. Having lost nearly 16,000 officers from forces in England and Wales – the equivalent of losing all the police forces in the south west of England – the police service’s lack of ability, or willingness, to attend certain incidents has come under the spotlight.

In August a news story broke concerning attempted burglaries and how Leicestershire Police admitted only sending forensic officers to homes with an even number during a three-month trial, because it wanted to find out whether it had any impact on victim satisfaction rates. Police resources were also under intense scrutiny following the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Robbery, when it was discovered that police decided not to respond to an intruder alert issued by the alarm receiving centre. These kinds of incidents have left many in the security industry concerned that they cannot rely on a police response when needed.

Much of the effectiveness of CSAS comes down to the quality of the individual and the training they are given. A chief constable may not grant accreditation unless they are satisfied that the person concerned has received adequate training from a National Police Chiefs’ Council approved provider. Furthermore, an organisation must accredit individuals as being fit and proper, and suitable to exercise the powers that are to be given to them.

Choosing the right people is of paramount importance and failing to give this subject proper consideration is a recipe for disaster. At one extreme, some security personnel could be excessively officious, while on the other, individuals could simply see their extra powers as an excuse to be more ‘heavy-handed’ in their actions. I think that some security organisations do not have the necessary selection procedures in place and this could put their employees and the public at increased risk.

One of my main concerns when it comes to security personnel operating under CSAS is what happens when things go wrong. While the onus is on security companies to ensure that the right people are deployed, it would be unreasonable to assume that the potential for things to get out of hand from time to time is non-existent. Issuing a fixed penalty to someone that is drunk and/or aggressive, and who sees an accredited person as nothing more that a ‘hobby bobby’, could easily lead to violence.

Therefore, in a dangerous situation, will security personnel get the kind of quick response from the police that they need, or will such incidents simply be downgraded? This is a question that the security industry as a collective must seek assurances on if closer cooperation between private companies and the police service under CSAS is to be mutually beneficial.

This issue is also something that a growing number of customers have to consider. Those wanting CSAS accredited persons is certainly on the rise, however, there are others who feel very uneasy about asking their security personnel to undertake the type of roles that are traditionally the domain of the police service.

The potential of CSAS to benefit both the police and security services is certainly there. It is, however, vital to ensure that high standards are maintained and that less scrupulous organisations do not exploit it purely for commercial gain, while ignoring the dangers that their employees and the public could face from poor decision making. I’d be interested to hear what you think, so post your comments below.

The figures are beginning to stack up

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.Image

When the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, gave his budget to parliament on the 8th July, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to be caught off-guard by his announcement of a £7.20 an hour National Living Wage for those aged over 25 from next year, rising to £9 by 2020. Although much of the other content was pretty predictable, this pronouncement really did catch people by surprise – something highlighted by the Labour front bench’s collective expressions as the details were given.

This welcome news will give a pay rise to over 1.4 million workers in our country and as regular readers of my blogs will know, the issues surrounding the National Minimum Wage and, more importantly, the need to move towards a Living Wage are close to my heart. Although perhaps not as excited as the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, was at the time of the announcement, broadly speaking I am pleased that the security industry’s lowest paid workers will, at last, get a much deserved pay increase. It is fair to say that wage rates in the manned guarding sector have been a significant cause of concern for many years and have not helped our cause to improve the image of the security industry.

However, while the policy is a good one and should be welcomed, using the National Living Wage brand smacks of a deliberate attempt to cause confusion with the well-established Living Wage Foundation’s (LWF) Living Wage, and steal its thunder. As a point of clarification, the National Living Wage will replace the National Minimum Wage for the over 25s, although it remains in place for those who are younger. The National Minimum Wage is set by the Low Pay Commission. Meanwhile, the Living Wage Foundation will continue to offer its own Living Wage, usually different, figures.

Why are they different? The LWF Living Wage is calculated according to the cost of living, whereas the Low Pay Commission calculates the National Living Wage according to what it thinks the market can withstand. The current LWF Living Wage for London is £9.15 an hour, higher than what the government says its National Living Wage will be by 2020. Elsewhere the LWF rate is £7.85 an hour, 9% more than what has been proposed in the budget.

For what it’s worth, I would like to see more employers pay the rates outlined by the LWF Living Wage, wherever and whenever possible. Although its supporters will claim that the National Living Wage will reduce poverty and increased productivity amongst businesses, the LWF Living Wage could do so much more. I’m not alone in this view, as during 2014 the number of accredited LWF Living Wage employers more than doubled, with over 1,000 employers across the UK having now signed up.

Not surprisingly, the National Living Wage has been met with a certain degree of negativity, not just amongst Labour politicians and their supporters, most of which see it as a red herring. Stephen Nickell, a leading figure at the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the government’s fiscal watchdog, has stated that the number of people in poor households who are likely to benefit from a higher minimum wage is very small. Similarly, the CBI has called the move a ‘gamble’ that risks politicising the process and causing problems for some small businesses.

The repercussions for the security sector will be interesting. At Corps Security, we already pay above the new National Living Wage on most of our contracts, and in the broader commercial environment I think the increase will be generally accepted. This would mirror my experience when the National Minimum Wage was introduced in 1998, although it won’t all be plain sailing. There will certainly be some organisations currently paying the National Minimum Wage that will have to adapt to the new rate by cutting costs and even reducing staffing levels.

Where I expect there will be problems is within the public sector, where there is usually a refusal to adjust prices to meet legislative change. Security services providers operating within these markets will be looking for some government reassurance that they will not be detrimentally affected. It will be up to the government to ensure that public sector organisations meet the cost of their changes in policy which could not possibly be predicted when the original bidding processes took place.

Another question mark surrounds the two million under-25s who are not covered by this announcement. There has been a concern that some employers will look to take on younger people simply so they can pay the lower rate. I hope that employers will take our approach to this, which is that whatever a person’s age, gender, religion or race, the rate for the job is the same. I’m sure that the reality will, however, be different.

Like any new legislation, this initiative will take some getting used to but I am happy that those in positions of power are, at last, taking the issue seriously. It’s just a shame that the name has been used so cynically, and I hope the Living Wage Foundation is able to continue its fantastic work and that we can all move towards a rate of pay that is commensurate with the overall cost of living.

Sad News

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below. Image The news that a fellow security guard has died after being attacked outside a court in central London was met with great sadness at our offices. Lorraine Barwell, a prisoner custody officer with Serco, was assaulted on Monday as she escorted a prisoner between Blackfriars Crown Court and a prison van.  It is understood that she and other members of her team were preparing to escort the prisoner to a van parked inside the court’s courtyard when she was assaulted.

According to BBC Home Affairs correspondent Danny Shaw, Ms Barwell is believed to be the first prisoner custody officer to have died in the line of duty. It is sadly true that the major contribution that our industry colleagues make to keeping people and property safe is not properly recognised.  The commitment of private security officers to the job often puts them at the risk of threats and physical assault during the course of their work and, today, our thoughts and condolences are very much with the family, friends and colleagues of Ms. Barwell.

(UPDATED 03/07/15 20:10)

In response to my post above, I received the following from Gary Broad, Major Accounts Director at Corps Security, and I would like to include it in full here.

This week’s terrible news that a serving security officer has died in the line of duty has shocked us all; providing a timely reminder of the vulnerability of each and every person involved within the wider contract-security family.

Unfortunately, it is only following such an extremely sad incident that we feel able to extend the genuine concern that each of us feels for our own employees. To those who also serve – but in uniforms of a different hue, and behind a badge of different design.    

As an industry, we must be united in our condemnation of such despicable behaviour from those who we seek to protect the honest and decent citizens of this country from; especially as we move through such uncertain times, when the likelihood of further violent actions present challenges to us all.

Lorraine Barwell, a Prisoner Escort and Custody Services Officer employed by Serco, was assaulted on Monday as she and her colleagues accompanied a prisoner between Blackfriars Crown Court and a secure vehicle. It is understood that she and other members of her team were providing safe passage for the prisoner when she was assaulted.

According to BBC Home Affairs correspondent Danny Shaw, Ms Barwell is believed to be the first prisoner Custody Officer to have died in the line of duty.

For those of us who eat, sleep and breathe security on a day-to-day basis, the sad news of such a terrible loss can sometimes, unfortunately be tinged with a feeling of inevitability; knowing that despite all of our best efforts to mitigate such terrible occurrences and protect our colleagues to the full, the potential for violent attack always lurks just under the surface for many, if not most, of our front-line personnel.

How little do those that we strive to protect on a daily basis understand about the risks our colleagues take on their behalf? And how little do they appreciate how much “simply being of service” means to the vast majority of contract-security personnel (be they involved in guarding, cash-collection, prisoner escort or any other protective service?)

I’m sure that others within our industry share the uncomfortable feeling that I get when hearing our colleagues referred to in negative terms, by people who have neither the aptitude, ability, nor courage to undertake the tasks that our staff complete each and every day – and who probably wouldn’t get out of bed for a salary double that available to our people. 

As Peter says above, it is a sad truism that the huge contribution made by our industry colleagues to keeping people and property safe is not recognised as it should be. With the increased potential for terrorist activity and civil unrest rising daily, it is about time that the hardworking, conscientious and yes – brave – security personnel of the UK are recognised for the jobs that they do so well, often at the vanguard of our country’s fight against anti-social behaviour, crime and terrorism.  

The commitment of security personnel (in all sectors) to their job often puts them at the risk of threats and physical assault during the course of their work and, today, our thoughts and condolences are very much with the family, friends and colleagues of Ms. Barwell, a brave and obviously dedicated representative of all things that are right, an Officer who was described as being “a consummate professional, really good at her job and very much respected” by her Manager.

Is the rise of the SNP the thin end of the wedge?

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.Image

As far as general elections go, this one had more than its fair share of drama and one month on, and with the Queen’s Speech delivered, we are finally starting to get an idea of the direction of UK policy.

In many respects the result was a tale of two nations. While most of us expected a hung parliament of one kind or another, when the BBC’s exit poll stated that the Conservatives would win an outright majority, it was hard to believe. Let’s just say that very few people, thought Paddy Ashdown would actually have to eat his hat! – although I suspected that there may be a surprise outright win for the Conservatives as, against expectations, the UKIP vote seemed to be coming from the supporters of other parties.

While the success of the Tories was down to English voters, north of the border a seismic shift was created with the Scottish National Party (SNP) winning 56 of the country’s 59 seats. Although this result was greeted with a certain amount of incredulity by most commentators, I was less surprised, given the result of the Scottish independence referendum where 44.7% of the voters supported the Nationalist message. What transpired was that the SNP achieved 50% of the vote in Scotland in the General election and was placed in the driving seat when it comes to negotiating greater devolution. Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader, recently stated that his party wants to negotiate the transfer of even greater tax and welfare powers to Scotland.

The Scotland Bill will make Holyrood responsible for raising about 40 per cent of the country’s taxes, with powers to set the thresholds and rates of income tax included in the legislation. SNP MPs at Westminster will no doubt be pushing to make the Scottish government responsible for raising all the money it spends. No surprises there then, but we have to be careful that any moves in that direction do not harm businesses that conduct their operations in both countries. For instance, if income tax levels are different and/or changes to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) are made independently, then confusion could reign. We must be careful not to create a situation where Scotland sets the agenda for the rest of the UK and this surely strengthens the case for English votes for English laws (EVEL).

Moving away from this subject, the issue of zero hours contracts was a hot topic leading up to the election and I’m glad to see positive steps being made regarding this subject. The government acted in advance of the Queen’s Speech to outlaw the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts and as part of the Enterprise Bill it indicated that there would be a further crackdown on the abuse of such contracts. Details are pretty scarce but the government has entered into a period of consultation on the issue and we can expect to hear more soon.

As I’ve outlined in previous blogs, although they are certainly being abused in some cases, when used correctly zero hours contracts are a force for good and offer flexible employment opportunities. Therefore, I think that any legislation must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and hinder the employment of those who are happy to work under this type of contract.

It’s also good to hear that a harder line will be taken against those failing to pay the NMW. A ‘naming and shaming’ process has already begun and the government has so far publicly named 201 employers who have failed to pay their workers the NMW, with total arrears of over £635,000 and total penalties of over £248,000. Companies could now face financial penalties of up to £20,000 if they don’t pay the NMW and shaming could also result in serious reputational consequences.

I’m pleased that this type of decisive action is being taken, as in my opinion we should all be working towards paying the Living Wage in the security industry as a minimum in order to benefit from increased staff motivation and retention rates, reduced absenteeism and recruitment costs. Hopefully, we’ll see greater moves in this direction going forward.

As a security industry professional, another bill that caught my attention was the Investigatory Powers Bill – colloquially referred to as the Snooper’s Charter. This was put on the backburner during the previous coalition government but the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has resurrected it, and as well as enabling the tracking of Internet and social media use, it will also strengthen the security services’ warranted powers for the bulk interception of the content of communications. Although this has not proved popular with civil liberties groups, those with nothing to worry about should not be concerned about this legislation, as we need to do everything possible to prevent terrorist attacks.

I’m generally positive about the moves outlined in the Queen’s Speech and feel that the issues I have outlined will be addressed thoroughly and fairly through the proposed legislation. However, my positivity is tempered by the growing threat of increased devolution and I fear that we haven’t heard the last about Scottish independence.

Have we reached the end of the thin blue line?

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.Image

A few weeks ago there was an incident at Corps Security that could have cost us a significant sum of money. Our Chief Financial Officer received an email, purportedly from me, asking how to arrange payment to a third party. Plausible though it sounds, the email was also peppered with pleasantries, so he immediately knew that it couldn’t possibly be from me! After we established that it was an attempt at cyber fraud, we wrote back asking for the name of the person to pay and their bank account details, which were given to us by return. Therefore swift action could have identified the perpetrator through the bank account before it was inevitably closed.

Now at this point we called the police to provide them with this information, so that appropriate action could be taken. Let’s just say that the level of disinterest we were met with was truly shocking. Effectively, we were simply asked to report it so that it could be recorded, and informed that no further action would be taken.

This albeit anecdotal experience is just one example of what appears to be a worrying trend regarding the police service’s desire, or ability, to deal with certain criminal acts. Retail crime is at the sharp end of this policy and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has expressed its members’ fears that the police regard shoplifting as a ‘victimless crime’, which is not to be taken seriously. To my mind nothing could be further from the truth.

In January, the BRC published details of a study which found that UK retailers recorded an estimated three million offences against them in 2013-14, while the average value of each theft in-store increased by 36 per cent to £241 – the highest level for 10 years. This rise has helped to push up the direct cost of retail crime by 18 per cent to £603m during this period.

Part of the problem appears to stem from The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which received Royal Assent in March 2014. Section 176 makes theft from a shop of goods worth £200 or less a summary-only offence, which can be considered for police-led prosecution providing a guilty plea is indicated. For some this was seen as going soft on shoplifters and did not take into account that a sum of just £50 can seriously affect a small shopkeeper’s bottom line.

This isn’t a recent problem though. Back in 2013 crime logs revealed police in Birmingham were failing to record or investigate more than 60 per cent of shoplifting offences in the city. Hard to believe I know, but some cases were being ignored because police wrongly believed shoplifting – a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968 – was a civil offence. It seems that this level of ignorance wasn’t just an isolated case either and despite assurances from the Police Federation that it does take the matter seriously, a growing raft of evidence suggests otherwise to the extent that shoplifting is effectively being decriminalised by stealth.

I appreciate that the police service has witnessed some massive cuts over recent years, having lost nearly 16,000 officers from forces in England and Wales – the equivalent of losing all the police forces in the south west of England. Challenged on the implications of this, Paul Ford, Secretary of Police Federation National Detective Forum, has stated that these issues are affecting the police service’s ability to protect communities and to respond to calls.

It does appear, however, that the issue is as much about resource allocation as it is about numbers of police. Massive amounts of time, manpower and money is put into thwarting the growing terrorist threat and while this is wholly necessary, it is at the expense of what are considered less serious crimes. Unfortunately, it is Joe Public that bears the brunt of such decisions.

My big concern is where this will ultimately lead. Yes, the retail sector is already feeling the effects, but other sectors are suffering too. In my last blog I referenced the fact that during the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Robbery police decided not to respond to an intruder alert issued by the alarm receiving centre. We still don’t know why but it proved to be a very costly mistake.

Equally, those who have had the misfortune to be victims of burglary, vandalism or criminal damage will know only too well that in most cases the issuing of a crime reference number is the extent of police involvement.

It seems that victims of crime are being forced into a position where the only alternatives to police inaction are to launch a costly and time consuming civil legal action, or simply take it on the chin. I’m extremely uncomfortable with both scenarios and believe that the only way to prevent crime paying is to have a robust and effective police service that acts as a deterrent to those with criminal intent. Anything less puts us all in danger.

It’s time to take a top down approach to security provision

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below. Image I’m Peter Webster, Chief Executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

It is a constant source of amazement to me just how many UK organisations adopt a silo mentality when it comes to their security provision. They source their intruder alarm, CCTV, access control, fire detection and alarm monitoring services from different providers and when key holding, manned guarding and alarm response services are also considered it can mean that there are several different contracts in place, with every provider operating completely independently of each other.

This is hugely inefficient, both from procurement and administrative perspectives, as well as being enormously cost ineffective. It’s why using managed services from a specialist security solution provider makes more sense on every level. The fact that so many companies fail to recognise the benefits of an integrated approach is particularly surprising given the way it can streamline an entire security infrastructure, make it more operationally efficient and less expensive.

Like many of you I’m sure, the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Robbery both shocked and amazed me. The fact that such an audacious robbery was carried out so successfully in an age where surveillance, access control and alarm technology has never been more sophisticated, was simply incredible. The thieves even managed to come and go on two separate occasions. They first entered the building after 9.00pm on 2nd April and left shortly after 8:00am on 3rd April, and then returned to the scene soon after 10:00pm on 4th April and were recorded on CCTV leaving the premises at around 6:40am on 5th April.

It also appears that the police decided not to respond to an intruder alarm alert issued by the alarm receiving centre. We are yet to discover why but in a statement Scotland Yard said, ‘It is too early to say if the handling of the call would have had an impact on the outcome of the incident.’ Given what we now know, I think that it would have been prudent to have at least attended the scene.

While more details will emerge over the forthcoming days and weeks, it is clear that there was a disconnect at some point in the process, and follow up actions were not carried out properly. A more joined up approach to the building’s security provision would have created a more effective operational system where others would have been asked to investigate in such an event and more sophisticated technology implemented. For example, we’ve all seen the image of the hole that was drilled to get to the safety deposit boxes, so was a seismic detection system in place and was the intruder alarm correctly specified?

If a single management process is desirable, which organisation should manage the overall contract? As the user of the technology, it is my view that the remote monitoring service provider should lead the way to providing management of the whole security infrastructure. It has to monitor and react to any incidents and should be managing the specification of equipment in order to provide the best level of security at the most efficient cost.

Leading remote monitoring service providers can undertake an in-depth analysis of an organisation’s activities, premises and facilities, and it is only after completing a comprehensive risk and threat assessment that the most appropriate security solution is configured. Preferably the monitoring provider will not install equipment itself as, by remaining independent, it will be able to work with best-in-class integrators, therefore ensuring that the most appropriate security technology infrastructure will be put in place – one that can be monitored to best effect.

A fully integrated solution also reduces spend and enhances protection by cost effectively combining the use of manned guarding, surveillance technology and remote monitoring. This holistic approach avoids sub-dividing various service offerings into separate departments, providing a complete solution that combines the most appropriate elements of each discipline. The savings can be significant and as a pioneer of this approach, Corps Security has demonstrated that we can reduce a customer’s overall spend by up to 30 per cent without detriment to its security regime, simply by replacing costly manned guarding with less costly, but equally effective, remote monitoring services.

One of the reasons for the status quo is the misapprehension that remote monitoring companies only do monitoring and there is no alternative but to use different suppliers for various disciplines. This is simply not the case and, as I suspect the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit robbery will demonstrate, there are inherent dangers associated with a fragmented approach to security provision.