Same as it ever was

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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13th February 2014 marked 155 years since the formation of Corps Security and not only are we one of very few companies of this age still operating, we are just as relevant today as we were back then. While my blogs usually focus on the wider issues that affect our industry, I wanted to take this opportunity to outline some of the conclusions I reached from pondering our longevity and continued success.

When I was appointed chief executive of Corps Security in 2010 I already knew that I was joining a challenging and exciting industry. What I didn’t realise, however, was how unlike the vast majority of its peers this company is and how it occupies a unique position within its sector. I will admit that it took a good couple of months before the relevance of our history and motto of ‘loyalty, integrity, service’ made their mark on my thinking and plans for the company.

Much of what defines Corps Security can be traced back to the circumstances of its formation. Captain Sir Edward Walter, a retired officer of the 8th Hussars, created the company in 1859 as a way to provide gainful employment for ex-servicemen on return from the Crimean War. In marked contrast to today, life was extremely tough for those who had loyally served their country. As well as coping with physical injuries, their employment opportunities were limited and this meant incredible hardship for them and their families.

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Walter was convinced that these people could perform, through their military related knowledge and qualities, a vital role in protecting the financial houses of the City of London. Not only could they earn a proper wage, it would also allow them to regain their dignity. He organised them as a body of uniformed men and termed them the Corps of Commissionaires. His first resettlement project was possibly one of the most challenging and involved finding jobs for the eight men pictured below.

Included in the ‘original eight’ employees was Thomas Hancock, one of the first recipients of the Victoria Cross (VC). Hancock was a corporal in the 9th (Queens Royal) Lancers and in 1857 he fought in the Indian Mutiny, where he saved the life of Brigadier J H Grant C.B when his horse was shot from under him and he became surrounded by mutineers. Hancock was also shot and subsequently lost an arm, but for his bravery was awarded the VC.

The Original Eight

These stories have an enduring fascination and our heritage has even been written about in a book on the history of the Corps of Commissionaires called ‘Our Sergeant’. However, while it is undoubtedly of great historical interest, one of the issues that I had to wrestle with during the first few months of my tenure at the company was how use the experience of the past to meet the ever changing needs of the present.

After giving the issue some considerable thought and analysis, and seeing how the company operated, it became clear that the DNA of the business was about our people and the way that we treat them. It’s why our customers stay with us and our employees are proud to work for us – the latter point is borne out by our industry leading staff retention rates.

This loyalty can be attributed, in no small part, to our ‘circle of care’, which can be summed up as follows – we look after our colleagues, who will then look after our clients, who, in turn, look after our company by retaining our services long-term. We also have our Colleague Charter, which is based around the acronym PRIDE – promise, respect and recognition, information, development and envoys. It details how employees should treat each other, promise to do what they say they will do, keep each other informed, take responsibility for offering and taking up training opportunities, and present themselves and the company in a positive light.

We are immensely proud of our background and the motives behind the company’s formation, however, we have to tread a fine line to counter any misconceptions that we are an old-fashioned company with one foot in the past. This is a real challenge and one that I, and the rest of the team here, have had to work very hard to address.

I firmly believe that our use of IT related technology makes us one of the most forward thinking companies in our sector, without compromising our central values. For instance, we listen to the views and needs of our employees, via a number of communication channels, to ensure they are fully informed and engaged with the business at all levels. Each year our ‘Your View Matters’ online survey gauges our performance in areas such as training and careers development and our ‘open door’ policy is highlighted by Talk2Peter, where my email address is available to all employees and via which, they are encouraged to feed back ideas, opinions and suggestions.

The conclusion that I drew in 2010 and still believe in today is that ‘loyalty, integrity, service’ are values that have just as much relevance in today’s cut-throat corporate world as they did in 1859. While the way that business’ go about their activities might have changed, it will always be the quality of the people representing a company and the way they are treated, that makes the difference between success and failure.

Cybersecurity is more than just an IT issue

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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2014 has already seen cyber-criminals making the headlines and if the experts are to be believed this is just the tip of the iceberg, with the number and seriousness of cyber attacks predicted to rapidly increase. To demonstrate the scale of the problem, according to the 2012 PwC information security breaches survey 93 per cent of large corporations and 76 per cent of small businesses were affected.

In the last week or so we’ve heard about how Bitstamp – one of the world’s largest Bitcoin exchanges – had to halt withdrawals after being hacked, and why Tesco also had to deactivate some customers’ accounts after their login names and passwords were shared online.

The ways in which criminals are evolving their methods is exemplified in CryptoLocker. This comes in the form of a phishing email that contains malware within PDF files from banks, couriers or other seemingly legitimate sources. Once opened, the malware encrypts the contents of the hard drive and any other shared drives. There are also reports of hackers grabbing video of how victims use their computers, so that they can steal from online bank accounts. This enables them to evade the checks that look for unusual behaviour by identifying how a user starts their browsers accesses a bank’s website and enters data.

Not surprisingly, the UK government is taking the issue seriously too, and at a summit of regulators and intelligence chiefs, the business secretary, Vince Cable, said that there was a growing threat of disruption to everyday life. To back up his argument, he cited a 2012 cyber attack on Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, which shut down 30,000 of its computers.

It is clear that organisations have to be more aware than ever of how to protect themselves against hackers by having an effective cybersecurity strategy in place. However, I have become increasingly concerned that cybersecurity is being used as a buzzword simply to evoke a sense of panic. It seems to me that while boards of directors are more than willing to invest large sums of money in the latest firewalls and encryption methods, they often fail to realise the part that physical security such as CCTV, access control and manned guarding plays in a successful cybersecurity strategy.

To illustrate my point, I recently read an interesting comment by Jan Veldsink, who consults to businesses on IT security and has developed the Business and Cyber Robustness Executive MBA module at Nyenrode Univeriteit in The Netherlands. He states, ‘The word cybersecurity provides a false impression. It promotes the suggestion that if you pump enough money into firewalls and good ICT systems, you’ll be safe. That’s not the case. Dealing with cybercrime is not just a problem for the IT department. You have to train every part of your organisation.’

To put it bluntly, there’s no point in having the best firewall in the world if people can simply walk into a building, take IT hardware such as servers and hard drives containing sensitive and business critical data, and walk straight out again.

Then there is the issue of poor internal security – passwords by written on Post-It notes and stuck on desks for all to see, memory sticks left lying around and incorrectly addressed mail. This scope for human error was also highlighted in research conducted by Trend Micro, which revealed that 27 per cent of smartphone users have had up to three work devices lost or stolen and 25 per cent of people who only use their mobile device for work have emailed sensitive data to the wrong person.

The consequences of these types of events are immense. There are a number of UK and European laws that govern corporate liability for data breaches, and fines can be as high as £500,000. This is in addition to the cost in terms operational downtime and business continuity, while not forgetting reputational damage – all of which can far outweigh the price of a fully coordinated and integrated security strategy.

So why doesn’t this happen as a matter of course? It usually comes down to the ‘silo mentality’ – adopting a collaborative approach to dealing with cybersecurity has little to do with external influences and everything to do with internal cross-departmental cultures. In other words, physical security and IT teams do not communicate effectively to better understand their respective roles and how they are, in fact, reliant on each other to keep business operations safe from harm.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to devising a security strategy and each organisation will have its own unique considerations. That’s why using an external specialist security services provider can be highly beneficial, as it will be able to carry out a full threat and risk assessment. This can also contribute to an overall cybersecurity strategy by ensuring that surveillance and access technology, as well as manned guarding, are full optimised to protect IT infrastructure.

 Cybersecurity is important but it will only work if the rest of the pieces of the security jigsaw are in place.

A single-minded approach to security

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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For many years I have been an avid campaigner against the use of integrated service bundling or, as it is also known, total facilities management. I firmly believe that security is quite unlike any other service that a facilities manager has to procure and that only a specialist can provide the best possible solution to keep people, property and assets safe.

It’s clear that I’m not alone in this view and I was delighted to read the comments made by Geoff Zeidler, chairman of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), in the latest issue of City Security Magazine. Geoff clearly shares many of my own concerns about the proliferation of low cost and low expertise security services being provided as part of an integrated FM bundle.

In his article Geoff says, “As part of a bundle of services, the customer inevitably makes a compromised selection of security provider which can, by definition, never be better than an independent choice.” As far as I’m concerned, he hits the nail on the head by unequivocally stating that customers using bundled services are reducing the likelihood of receiving a security solution that meets their specific needs. What’s more, should an event occur, they really need to consider whether their bundled service provider would be able to deal with the situation.

Another point where I am in total agreement with Geoff concerns the key procurement driver behind bundled services – the desire to cut costs. In my view, while it may look good on paper and please the finance director, it will more than likely result in a service that falls well below the minimum standards that should be expected. Ultimately, those who favour the ‘one stop shop’ approach must ask themselves whether security and other disciplines within the FM sector have interchangeable management skill sets. Those who answer to the affirmative should seriously take some time to better understand the role of security within their organisations.

I am not for one moment denigrating the other FM disciplines and, having worked in the catering and cleaning industries, I have the greatest respect for what they do. The principle of specialism is equally relevant across the board and a specialist cleaning company will provide a higher level of service than a company that offers general services using multi-discipline management. However, while a poor standard of cleaning could cause problems, the danger of having inadequately trained and inexperienced security management could be catastrophic.

The term bundling itself is also open to misinterpretation, particularly as it is common to both integrated service bundling and security bundling. In order to quash any possible confusion from my end, I would like state quite clearly that while I dislike the former, I wholly support the latter.

Using bundled security services makes complete sense for many reasons and it is surely logical to use one specialist organisation to manage all related security services such as CCTV monitoring, intruder and fire alarm receiving, access control and of course, manned guarding. As Geoff Zeidler states, “it is a model that is seen widely in Europe”, yet the UK seems to be lagging behind. This is surprising given the way it can streamline an entire security infrastructure, make it more operationally efficient and therefore more cost effective.

I think our Corps Security’s example highlights the advantages of security bundling and we have seen on many occasions the benefits that it brings to our customers. Our entire service model is based upon configuring and implementing the most effective security strategy for our customers, using a combination of human manned guarding, technology and remote monitoring. We do this by assessing all of the risks and threats to an organisation and recommending the best security solution without preferring any one type of service and this is often more cost effective that the existing arrangements.

It’s all about using the best people for the job. For instance, we don’t carry out the installation and maintenance of electronic security technology. However, we are able to specify the right equipment and technology for each situation avoiding the common problem of either the wrong low-cost equipment or over-specified technology being installed, both of which will cost more in the long term. We can also recommend specialists and trusted service partners, who will get it right first time, and won’t oversell, undersell or supply substandard equipment. Combining the right technology with our manned guarding and remote monitoring functions ensures that we can be flexible and responsive by, for example, swapping manned hours for monitored hours when necessary.

Our commitment to working with best-in-class companies has led us to develop strategic partnerships with a number of leading specialists, who can provide diverse services such as sniffer dogs, technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM), close protection and hostile environment accompaniment. It means that each customer gets a completely holistic solution – one that instils confidence.

The advantages of security bundling are considerable and I sincerely hope that it becomes more widely accepted in the UK. However, this will often depend on a customer’s corporate policy and that’s not always so easy to change, especially when other security related issues continue to dominate. As Geoff says in his article, “If I was to say ‘cyber security’ in any boardroom today, everyone would engage as it represents a known unknown threat.”

And that will be the subject of my next blog.

The big questions for 2014

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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One of the main objectives when writing my blogs is to open up discussion and get people thinking and talking. Since beginning my series of missives I have been pleasantly surprised with the amount of feedback I have received – not all of it agreeing with my views. Mainly the feedback has been through discussions with readers I meet, rather than them posting comments on this site. However the feedback clearly demonstrates the level of strong feeling regarding the issues that affect all of us in the security sector.

The end of the year always offers the chance to reflect and look forward to what’s ahead. As well as planning another successful year for Corps Security, during the Christmas break I also took time to assess the bigger picture in terms of the issues that may impact upon our industry.  Below I address six such issues and in addition to me confirming my views on each of them, I would also really like to hear your opinions – opinions which will hopefully prompt some further topical debate from other Blog-readers relating to these important matters.

Please use the comment option on this site to give feedback, either in support of my views or otherwise!

Will the situation regarding the Security Industry Authority (SIA) get resolved in 2014?

My views about this are documented in a previous blog and despite many discussions since about the proposed plans for the phased transition to a business regulation regime, I still see absolutely no benefit to changing the current situation. In fact, the disruption and confusion already caused has meant that the situation is rapidly descending into farce.

Having crunched the numbers, we estimate that business licencing on top of the existing individual licencing will cost Corps Security an additional £50,000 a year. The increased bureaucracy, time and uncertainty it will cause means that there is no value at all to going down this route.

Customers, quite understandably, will be highly resistant to increased charges for unnecessary additional security licencing, so it could mean that those who demonstrate continual improvement via the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) could decide to withdraw from it to save money. I believe this would simply mean swapping a great scheme that adds real value for one that has none whatsoever, and the industry will inevitably suffer as a result.

Will we see changes in the public procurement of security services?

This is another huge bugbear of mine and when news broke last year that G4S and Serco had allegedly been overcharging the Ministry of Justice enormous sums of money for electronic tagging services, it reaffirmed my long held view that a root and branch overhaul of procurement policy is absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately, the government is blindly convinced that big is beautiful and rather than learning from its lessons it continues to give massive contracts to individual companies that potentially offer poor executive control and low levels of performance. I’m convinced that splitting these contracts and awarding them to smaller companies would increase attention to detail, transparency, competiveness and innovation.

Is the trend of Total Facilities Management (TFM) and/or Integrated Service Bundling coming to an end?

I don’t think that we will see any major changes to the way some companies use multi-service providers during 2014. However, I do think that there will be a slowing down of the rateat which service bundling is adopted.

What is often referred to as total facilities management or integrated services has created a situation where lowest cost and convenience has taken precedence over procuring the type of specialist services that offer genuine long term advantages. I firmly believe that for any service that is as business critical to end-users as manned guarding, only specialist providers can offer the requisite levels of focus, skill and experience needed to ensure that optimum standards are achieved and maintained. What’s more, only specialist providers should be entrusted to deliver the accurate risk and threat assessments which should underpin every manned guarding service.

Security needs to be considered as different from any other service that a business has to procure and there is significant peace of mind to be had from knowing that a fully licensed, trained and qualified specialist is on hand to deal with any situation.

Should there be a change to the UK’s security threat status?

With the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games set to take place in the summer, the question about maintaining or increasing our current threat status is sure to be on the minds of many security professionals.

Of course, it is MI5 (the Security Service) which assesses and sets the official threat level/status. At present this is assessed as: substantial – the third from highest. The vigilance of the security services has been very high for a number of years, but notwithstanding this, there seems little reason to expect a downward adjustment in the threat level for the foreseeable future.

With terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda maintaining a foothold in the Middle East, and with an escalation of extremism in Northern Ireland, we must all continue to maintain our awareness of the risk posed by international and especially home grown terrorist activity – a danger that shows no sign of abating.

Will we see any changes to the UK’s labour laws?

Zero hours contracts made headlines during 2013 and to my mind there was a great deal of misinformation and scaremongering regarding this issue. Although there is evidence to suggest that some employers are using zero hours contracts in ways that negatively affect their employees, the security industry is an example of how they can be implemented properly and benefit all parties.

That said, the Labour party is continuing its call for reform and, in my opinion, using the issue for political point scoring. The coalition government, however, appears unlikely to change the status quo, so I can’t see any changes before the next general election. More recently the focus has been on ‘agency labour’ and the difficulty here is how do you draw the line between agency and contracted services? This could be a serious potential threat to our industry.

However it is easy to shout loudly from the opposition benches and even if Labour does get into power after the next election, I think they would find that altering the existing system would be incredibly difficult on a practical level. For example it is estimated that one in five employers has at least one employee on a zero hours contract.

Is there a need to increase privacy laws?

The issue of privacy was brought to the fore when Edward Snowden, a former spy at America’s National Security Agency (NSA), released 58,000 classified documents to the Guardian, before fleeing to Russia. The documents showed that phone and Internet data from individuals has been accessed on a massive scale.

I believe that the security services around the world have, on the whole, been extremely effective in recent years in thwarting many potential attacks – thanks in no small part to effective information gathering (and collaboration with organisations such as Corps Security whose employees are the often “the eyes and ears on the ground” for counter terrorist agencies).

Therefore, I believe allowing access to certain types of personal information is a small price to pay – I have nothing to hide and the only people that should worry are those with malicious intent. Limiting the ability of the security services to carry out their work effectively will only put lives in danger.

So there are some of my key questions for 2014 – I really would welcome your comments and opinions please.

New pension arrangements are a Fair Deal for all

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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Those of you who are regular readers of my blogs will be well aware that I have voiced some serious concerns about the government’s existing procurement policy as well as its now aborted plans to abolish the service provision change (SPC) element of The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE). When it comes to these issues it seems to me that in the past the powers that be are not working in the best interests of the many small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that operate in the security sector.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised about the content of the revised Fair Deal for Staff Pensions, which came into effect in October. I think that it will go a long way in creating a more level playing field for SMEs and allow them to tender for the type of contracts that only those with serious financial muscle have previously been able to consider.

Let me explain why. The new Fair Deal states that individuals whose employment is compulsorily transferred from the public sector to independent providers of public services via TUPE will be able to maintain their public service pension arrangements. These new first generation continued access arrangements replace the ‘broad comparability’ policy, whereby the company that won a contract would have to set up a pension scheme similar to the one that transferees had previously enjoyed. What’s more they would also have to endure the rather onerous process of having it authorised by the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD).

Although Corps Security is a reasonably large operation, even for a company like us the financial and administrative implications of implementing a broadly comparable scheme made competing for some contracts prohibitive due to the significantly increased cost risks. Therefore, we have had to sit by and watch as outsourcing opportunities have been restricted to larger companies with more resources.

If we examine the figures it’s not difficult to understand how restrictive the previous situation was. For example, companies that now have to auto-enrol employees into a pension scheme have to charge customers an extra one per cent, yet the cost of putting a scheme in place that is broadly comparable to the public sector and administering it would have seen this figure rise to around a staggering 30 per cent. Quite simply it was commercially too risky for SME’s to do and although the pension arrangements were not mandatory, the consequences of not doing so, in terms of industrial unrest and damage to reputation, meant that it was just as effective as legislation.

However, under the new system everyone benefits. Security providers simply pay the employer contribution part of the pension – something that can be instigated with very little bureaucracy involved. Just as importantly, employees get to keep their valuable public sector pensions – which generally offer more favourable returns than private sector variants and are more secure.

Any transferred staff will continue to be members of their public service pension schemes as long as they remain continuously employed as part of the outsourced service and should also continue to be eligible following any subsequent compulsory transfer. What’s more any employees that were eligible to be members of the public service scheme before transfer but were not active members should be eligible to join the scheme post-transfer, as long as they are enrolled back into the scheme on the day the new employment begins.

So far, so good, and unless you are one of the larger security services companies it’s hard to see a downside to the new arrangements – and believe me I’ve tried. This brings me on to what I consider to be the most positive element of the new guidance, which is the increased competition that it will bring by giving the green light to a much broader spectrum of contractors.

For far too long certain contracts have been seen as the exclusive domain of just a handful of companies. This lack of competition has led to what can only be described a series of humiliating failures – exemplified by the well documented problems surrounding the security arrangements at London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In the year or so since the event nobody has been able to explain to my satisfaction why a syndicated arrangement that allowed a number of companies to operate together wasn’t put in place from the beginning.

Perhaps it is this type of situation – and the need to avoid any repeats – that has finally woken the government up to the risks associated with reduced levels of competition in security provision. If this is the case then it should be applauded for its response with the revised Fair Deal for Staff Pensions, as it marks a significant step forward in helping SMEs bid for public sector work in first generation TUPE cases.

Remembrance and Ceremony

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 those familiar with Corps Security will know, the company was started in 1859 by Captain Sir Edward Walter KCB as a way of finding employment for servicemen returning from the Crimean war.

The company maintains close links with the services to this day: many of our colleagues are ex-servicemen and women; our charitable endeavours are focused towards charities that work with the services; and we are very proud to protect a number of military sites for valued customers.

As such, our colleagues were fully involved in Remembrance ceremonies this last weekend. Commissionaire Harry Anderson laid a wreath on behalf of Corps Security at Belfast City Hall cenotaph while Gary Broad, National Account Sales Director, attended a Parachute Regiment memorial on Wednesday last week and also attended Kidderminster and District Remembrance parade. Our colleague Alan Wells laid a wreath on behalf of Corps Security in Ypres, the site of some of the fiercest fighting and great loss of life in World War I.

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Alan Wells of Corps Security in Ypres

This year, Gary Broad has also visited and laid wreathes at Lijssenthoek in Belgium; Esquelbeck near Dunkirk; Amfreville, Ranville, Tilly-sur-Seulles and Jerusalem in Normandy, and the National Arboretum in Staffordshire.

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A wreath from Corps Security at Esquelbeck

Separately, Corps Security was closely involved this weekend with the Lord Mayor’s Show in London. The pageant marks the official election of the new Lord Mayor Of London, a position that dates back to 1215 and which was one of the first elected offices in the modern world.

This year, colleagues in ‘full shout’ – the official ceremonial dress worn by our colleagues on official occasions – guarded the grandstands where lucky members of the public mixed with officials and VIPs to watch the procession pass by. The Show marked the election of the 686th Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Fiona Woolf CBE, only the second woman ever to hold the office.

Now is the time to do nothing

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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When the government announced its Public Bodies Review in 2010, like many others I had no inkling that the future of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) would be at stake. The simple reason for this immunity, I thought, was that since 2003 the security sector has benefited enormously from its existence and significantly improved the way that it operates. What’s more, nowadays it doesn’t cost the government a penny to run as it is funded by the industry itself.

Perhaps most importantly, the SIA has made sure that only those who should work in the security sector are permitted to do so. Over the last 10 years 56,000 individuals have been refused licences – people who for a variety of reasons – from criminal records to unverifiable employment histories – are deemed unfit to be in a public facing role.

Government officials chose to ignore this important point and deregulation was initially mooted as the way forward, a move that left unchecked would have caused mayhem.

In response, the industry worked together to lobby on behalf of regulation and prevent the SIA’s abolition. I’m glad to say that it was successful and in 2011 the government had a rethink on its original proposal. However, rather than keeping the status quo it set out plans for the phased transition to a business regulation regime with a business based individual licensing process. It was claimed that this will give businesses more responsibility for the individuals that they employ, and achieve a reduction in the regulatory cost and burden on the private security industry as a whole.

The industry embraced the business licensing idea as it was far better than the alternative of no regulation. The industry even started to convince itself this was a good idea.

However the difficulties and risks around business based individual licensing were soon realised and the general opinion was that this was far better being undertaken by the SIA. An opinion I whole heartedly support.

So, having convinced everybody that business licensing was a good idea, now the latest thinking is that we will have both business and individual licensing.

Given that the aim of the Public Bodies Review is to improve the transparency, accountability, and cost effectiveness of all public services, this proposal would appear to contradict these objectives. Put simply, huge amounts of administrative duplication and, therefore, expense would be required to implement it.

If this seems like a very messy situation, that’s because it is. Unfortunately, many of those in the industry who have been happy with the role and performance of the SIA have had their heads turned by the idea of business regulation and individual licensing, and now see it as the way forward.

I’m not one of them and I’m convinced that keeping the current system and doing precisely nothing is the right thing to do. I’m not alone in this view and following the government’s Consultation on a Future Regulatory Regime for the Private Security Industry, which was carried out in late 2012, the summary of responses was published earlier this month. The responses highlight that a lot of people are dubious about the benefits of change.

A total of 776 replies to the consultation were received and while 50 per cent agreed with the government’s proposals for a phased transition to a business regulation regime (as opposed to the option of no regulation at all), 36 per cent were against and 14 per cent didn’t know. Although those in favour, including government ministers, are claiming victory, another way of looking at it is that an equal number are not in favour. Either way, it shows that there is still a great deal of concern about changing a system that works, and it is clear that many people voted in favour as a way to avoid complete deregulation.

Interestingly, 84 per cent of respondents expressed the view that the regulator should continue to issue licences for individuals – suggesting that the existing system has the support of the industry. There was also agreement that the regulator should continue to issue a licence card, as it was instantly identifiable, minimised the risk of forgery and fraud, maintained public confidence and was easily recognisable to law enforcement agencies.

The idea that business based regulation will better control the type of companies that can operate in the sector is a red herring – because there is no current major problem as far as I can see. Companies are not allowed to employ unlicensed individuals, so by definition they have to be above board. Equally, the current situation allows individuals the freedom to change companies, while providing their new employers with the peace of mind that a new recruit has passed a rigorous independent set of checks.

Even though I’m firmly in favour of keeping the SIA, my view is that it could, and should, do more with the power at its disposal. Take, for instance, security consultant and private investigator licensing. The latter was first discussed at the beginning of the SIA’s existence and is finally set to come into effect in 2014. While it will be a case of better late than never, 11 years is simply far too long and the amount of procrastination on this issue has been both frustrating and potentially damaging.

There is also the important issue of directly employed security staff who currently do not need to be licensed. Surely the time has now come to resolve the anomaly?

However, keeping the existing situation is a more than credible alternative to the government’s preferred option. We have a proven, cost effective and reliable system that has the potential for further improvement. The needless introduction of two layers of licensing, instead of just one for individuals, will cost vast sums of money and be highly disruptive – just at a time when the perception and reputation of the industry is beginning to be restored after the well reported recent difficulties of some companies.

While I sympathise with the position of those who have accepted the proposals on the basis that any regulation better than no regulation, I think that it is time we stood up for keeping the SIA as it is – who is with me?