Jumping through the hoops of energy reduction legislation

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.

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As one of the estimated 9,000 ‘large enterprises’ within the UK, Corps Security has just completed and submitted its Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) audit to the Environment Agency. I’m delighted to say that we beat the 5th December 2015 deadline by a comfortable margin, but having gone through the process and seen at first hand the time, trouble and expense of doing it, I’m left with the feeling that it was nothing more than fruitless exercise that is indicative of the type of red tape that is becoming all too common on the subject of energy saving and carbon reduction.

Not surprisingly, ESOS is necessary due to our membership of the European Union (EU) and was announced by the government in 2014 as its initiative for implementing Article 8 of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive. I should point out that Corps Security is neither pro or anti our membership of the EU and we are far from flippant about the need to reduce our impact on the environment. In fact, we are proud of our ISO 14001 certified environmental management system (EMS) and were one of the first companies within our sector to use low carbon vehicles.

However, I’m sceptical about the government’s claim that, as well as making a significant contribution to its Energy Efficiency Strategy, ESOS will drive the take-up of energy efficiency measures amongst businesses, thereby enhancing their competitiveness and contributing to the wider growth agenda.

Why? The simple answer is that after completing the compliance process, there’s no statutory requirement for companies to undertake any activity as a result of the recommendations. The government is effectively hoping that having gone to the time and expense of complying, companies will take subsequent action. However, I think that this is a false expectation and that many organisations will simply do the bare minimum.

Although the government pledged to minimise the administrative burden placed on businesses, there’s little doubt that the audit process is a significant drain on resources. I have the sense that because compliance is limited to companies that employ 250 or more staff, or that have an annual turnover in excess of around £42.5m and an annual balance sheet total of around £36.5m, it doesn’t matter and an attitude of ‘they can afford it’ prevails. My view is that while resources are being spent on ESOS, they’re not being used in more worthwhile and productive ways.

Government figures suggest any action taken as a result of findings from ESOS audits could lead to an average 0.7 per cent saving per enterprise, which is expected to provide a net positive benefit to the UK of between £0.8bn and £3bn, with a central estimate of £1.9bn between 2015 and 2030. While this might sound impressive, I believe that forward thinking organisations will already be doing all they can to reduce any harmful effects they have on the environment by developing processes to lower energy, reduce waste and pollution, and mitigate the risk of emergency situations. As there is no legal requirement for companies to act upon the findings of an ESOS audit, those that have no interest in taking action will simply not bother.

Then there’s the issue of what will be done with all of the information that is collected. Given that we live in an age of ‘big data’, it is surprising that there will be no central repository for all the information that is collected from the 9,000 or so companies undertaking the process. This is another missed opportunity, as crunching the numbers would provide a valuable insight into how energy is being used. It could also help to identify the types of measures that could be implemented in the future to help other organisations reduce consumption.

Enforcement is another big concern. Qualifying organisations that did not complete an ESOS assessment and notify the Environment Agency by 5th December are at risk of enforcement action, including the possibility of civil penalties. However, it is possible for the Environment Agency to waive or modify enforcement action and penalties relating to non-compliance, and for the first compliance period it is not expecting to take enforcement action for late notification, provided it is received by 29th January 2016.

In fact, according the Environment Agency’s own figures just 4,000 eligible businesses had declared compliance by 5th December, while another 2,500 had notified it that they intend to comply by 29th January 2016. This leaves thousands of eligible UK companies still to advise the Environment Agency and are potentially open to significant penalties for non-compliance – currently a fine of £500 per day for non-submission up to 80 days and then potentially a £50,000 fine. The question is are they bothered?

ESOS is just the latest in a range of schemes designed to reduce energy usage and its success depends on whether the boards of the nation’s largest organisations decide to act upon the recommendations outlined in their audits. If they do, all well and good, however, I can’t help thinking that many will simply not bother and ESOS will become just a tick in a box

 

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The issues that shaped the security industry in 2015

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 I reflect upon 2015, it feels that the world has become a more dangerous place than it was 12 months ago. Security is now a national preoccupation and it saddens me that rarely a day goes by when the need to better protect people, property and assets from a growing range of physical and technology based threats goes unmentioned in the media.

It was the year when our French neighbours witnessed two events that shocked the free world. In January, two Islamic terrorists forced their way into the offices of the satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, and killed 11 people and injured 11 others. Then in November, over 130 people were killed in coordinated attacks, including 89 at the Bataclan theatre. The so-called Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility and the fact that all of the known attackers were EU citizens, who crossed borders without difficulty, highlighted the danger of homegrown terrorism.

In the UK, we know all to well the devastating impact that having such individuals walking amongst us can have, as the 7/7 bombings and murder of Lee Rigby demonstrated. That danger is never far away and in recent days it has also transpired that the Paris terror leader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, had photos of Birmingham on his smartphone and was in contact with Moroccans living in the city.

The threat of physical harm has also shared column inches with the proliferation of cyber crime. Our desire to quickly adopt new Internet based technologies brings unanticipated risks and inadvertent consequences that can have negative impacts. During 2015 stories of cyber threats and major data breaches arising from hacker groups, criminal organisations and espionage units were in abundance.

This was exemplified in October when news emerged about a significant and sustained attack on TalkTalk. While the investigation is ongoing, it is reported that nearly 157,000 of its customers’ personal details were accessed and in excess of 15,600 bank account numbers and sort codes were stolen. TalkTalk was by no means alone though and organisations as diverse as Ashley Madison, Fiat Chrysler, Edinburgh Council and Bitdefender were all compromised. I can’t help thinking that this is just the thin end of the wedge and organisations and consumers alike must do more to protect data and treat an online security strategy as a ‘work in progress’ rather than a ‘fit and forget’.

Like most of the population, I had a keen interest in the 2015 general election and had an inkling that if the Conservatives won then we would see the return of the so called Snooper’s Charter or, to give it its correct title, the Investigatory Powers Bill. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, recently outlined her plans, which have been modified from the 2013 version that was defeated. The new Investigatory Powers Bill will not have some ‘contentious’ parts of the original plan but will still allow police and security services to track Internet and social media use, given them warranted powers for the bulk interception of data, and require communication firms to retain website addresses for a year.

Although the proposals have not proven popular with civil liberties groups, I’m firmly in favour of them. I think the public has nothing to worry about and should not be concerned about this legislation, as we need to do everything possible to prevent terrorist attacks.

Like a growing number of people the way that central government contracts are allocated, awarded and serviced gives me cause for concern. So, when Matt Hancock, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, announced plans get more SMEs working on central government contracts, my hopes were raised and then quickly dashed.

The reason for this is because 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 are a significant number of businesses with well over 250 employees – and that means that for many organisations in our industry, this announcement could actually make a bad situation worse.

Ultimately, the industry’s biggest players will continue to get the larger contracts and companies in the middle with, for example, 2,000 employees and the specialist resources available, will miss out at both ends of the spectrum. 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. Until a more inclusive and wide-ranging procurement policy is put in place, it could well mean that history repeats itself and I believe it’s time to redefine what constitutes an SME in the security industry.

There’s clearly much to consider in 2016 and with security now pervading all aspects of our lives, even the festive season is not immune. One present that will be at the top of the bestseller charts are drones or more correctly UAV’s (an acronym for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and with more of them in the sky than ever, the problem of these devices being used where they shouldn’t be – either through accident or design – will, like the other issues outlined here, be a subject of much debate in the year ahead.

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In the grand scheme of things

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

 

If you’re anything like me, the thought of living in a world without the Internet is hard to imagine. It has become the dominant factor in how we communicate and exchange information, and for some the thought of being without it is too much to bear. I recently read Vodafone’s Digital Behaviours study, which found that more than a third of Britons said they did not think they could make it through a full day without it, with the most common excuses being that it is part of modern life, and needing a way to contact friends.

This connection is evolving beyond mobile phones, tablets and computers and has developed into the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s a term that is widely misunderstood, but in a nutshell it describes a system where items in the physical world, and sensors within or attached to these items, are connected to the Internet via wireless and wired connections.

Put simply, it connects everything and everyone – from smart phones to coffee makers, washing machines, energy meters, headphones, refrigerators, lights, cars, wearable devices and almost anything else. The scope of the IoT is only limited by our imaginations and as each week goes past, new and exciting Internet connected devices are being developed and introduced to an ever more tech-savvy society.

Proponents of the IoT see it enabling a brave new world, free from the more mundane aspects of life. Meanwhile, those of a more cautious disposition envisage a Big Brother situation where governments, corporations or those with malicious intent can access information about individuals and their activities. One thing is for sure – it is the gateway to artificial intelligence, where interconnected machines that have human-like qualities to learn and rationalise will be developed and introduced.

Estimates about the amount of connected devices set to be in use over the next few years vary enormously. According to Intel, the IoT is predicted to grow from two billion objects in 2006 to 200 billion by 2020, when there will be around 26 smart objects for every human being on Earth. IBM claims that every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data – according to the US definition that’s one followed by 18 zeros – and if I put that huge number into perspective, it equates to filling up 57.5 billion 32GB Apple iPads every day!!

If we think what we produce today represents big data, we need to think again. IDC’s analysts predict that by 2020 these devices will collectively consume about 44 zettabytes of data – that’s 50 times more than in 2012 (a zettabyte is a 1 followed by 21 zeros!). Furthermore, by 2020 about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet.

It is clear that IoT based devices will collect a lot of personal data and, in my view, not enough is being done to build security and privacy into them. Of course, those who have committed no wrongdoing should have nothing to fear from the potential surveillance of that data by security services and police forces alike. Yet increased amounts of data can also make people, homes and businesses more attractive to cyber criminals and although hackers aren’t paying the IoT too much attention at the moment, as soon as there’s a financial incentive to doing so, I’m certain they will.

The vast majority of the public simply have no idea what type of information is being held about them and, just as importantly, where it is. Although the convenience of the Cloud appeals to many, there are still those who simply don’t understand that this means their information is not in some untouchable place in the sky, it is stored, processed and moved in terrestrial data centres, and owners and operators of these facilities have to be increasingly vigilant – not just of cyber crime, but physical attack too.

Traditional security measures have a part to play in protecting a data storage site (whether a big data centre or a company’s own smaller file servers) and these should form part of a multi-layered approach to safeguarding all stored data. Externally, perimeter fences, barriers, retracting posts at vehicle access points, CCTV cameras and manned guards can all deter a physical security breach.

Internally, CCTV, alarms, integrated access control systems and appropriately rated security doors and alarms all form part of the defence. Biometric controls, such as fingerprint and iris recognition, are beginning to replace swipe cards and can be used to monitor and record movement in a facility. Keeping the number of potential entry points to a minimum is also good practice, as is ensuring that staff are aware of their security responsibilities, and limiting access to certain areas. Software is also now available that provides local or remote control of racks and cabinets, with full event recording and a rolling 24 hour audit trail.

The IoT is transforming the everyday physical objects that surround us in ways that would have previously seemed the stuff of science fiction. Although we are still some way off seeing the full potential of these intelligent machines, consumers need to wake up to the security and privacy implications of having billions of devices collecting their data at all times, and put in appropriate measures to protect themselves.

To make it clear, I am in favour of security services having access to data to protect us from terrorist attacks but we need to build a data world where we are protected from criminals stealing that data.

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The ‘Invisible’ impact of serving your country

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 security industry has attracted recruits from the armed forces for many years, as it is clearly a sector where many of the skills that leavers have learned whilst in service can be put to good use in “Civvy Street”. Corps Security, as most will know, was established to provide employment for servicemen returning from the Crimean War. What many may be surprised to learn, however, is that even today 55% of our colleagues have served their country in one arm of the military or another. Whilst this level of ex-service personnel is higher than most, we estimate that probably around 33% of our industry has a service background.

Currently in the UK there are more than 2,000 military charities – all of whom are doing a fantastic job providing support for those who have risked life and limb for their country. The work that these charities do for those veterans with clearly visible signs of their sacrifice is amazing but, unfortunately, many veterans carry invisible scars which impact psychologically and emotionally.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes in society over the last 20 years has been its attitude and approach to mental health. I’m pleased to say that many of the stereotypes surrounding this subject have been addressed in a positive way, but on a wider basis, do we really have a great deal more sympathy and understanding about the problems faced by those in a vulnerable psychological state as a result of their time in service?

Most of us have heard of the term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Caused by very stressful and/or frightening events, it has become synonymous with those who have experienced the trauma of military combat, and ex-service personnel who fought in Northern Ireland, the South Atlantic, Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from it in significant numbers. The symptoms of PTSD vary widely but can include nightmares and flashbacks, as well as feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. While it can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event, it can also occur weeks, months or even years later.

The scale of the problem is immense and in 2014 the Ministry of Defence published figures that showed a 12 per cent increase in the rate of mental disorders as a whole, including depression and anxiety. When it came to PTSD, the figure was up an alarming 19 per cent from the year before.

As an industry with a significant number of ex-service personnel and current reservists working in it, I’m surprised that there isn’t more awareness of PTSD and other mental health issues. As so many of Corps Security’s employees have served in the armed forces, I wanted to find out more about the subject, so I recently met up with Combat Stress, the leading veterans mental health charity.

It was one of the most enlightening meetings that I’ve had and it brought into sharp focus just how much more needs to be done to increase awareness of this subject and generate much needed funds. Combat Stress currently provides free of charge support for nearly 6,000 men and women ranging in ages from 19-97. It provides a vital lifeline for these people and, just as importantly, their families, and aims to help veterans live free from the harmful effects of psychological wounds.

As I mentioned earlier, the changes in society’s attitude towards mental health issues have been immense but in reality PTSD and related problems have been around much longer. Unfortunately, for a long time anything non-physical wasn’t recognised as an illness. Those suffering from what we would today instantly recognise as symptoms of PTSD during the First and Second World Wars were simply considered to be lacking in moral fibre. The sad fact is that many people were imprisoned or even killed by firing squad for disobeying orders as result of their conditions.

In this respect Combat Stress was well ahead of its time, as it was founded in 1919 as the Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare Society and opened its first ‘recuperative home’ in 1920 on Putney Hill in London. Dealing with those who had what was then known as shellshock, it was a true pioneer of a more compassionate and rehabilitation based approach.

So, back to the present day. While the vital work of Combat Stress continues to make a real difference to many lives, in my opinion the security industry needs to do far more in terms of supporting our ex-service employees. We must learn to understand and recognise the symptoms of PTSD and put mechanisms in place that can help people through it.

People with PTSD may become emotionally numb, aggressive and nervous, and when in a working environment such as manned guarding, it can be all too easy to dismiss this type of behaviour as a ‘bad attitude’, or to excuse it by saying that a person is simply going through a difficult patch. Particularly in male dominated environments, there can be a reluctance to broach the subject of emotional and mental health issues and it can be all too easy to simply avoid talking about them. However, a failure to address the issue early on can lead to longer-term problems and affect an individual’s ability to work at all.

This simply has to change and a corporate and industry wide reassessment of how mental health is dealt with is the first and most important step on the journey towards helping those with this type of illness. Therefore, I would advocate that training on this subject should be given to all management, so that they can recognise the signs, talk to the person, and take appropriate action.

As a matter of course, those returning from a ‘theatre of war’ must be fully supported. Experiencing unpleasant things at close quarters leaves scars, and those leaving the armed forces (either time-served or as a result of debilitating injury), should be given the necessary help to relieve the impact of these experiences. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the very least we should be doing.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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