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New SIA chair speaks

We won’t be a London-centric organisation, was among the points made by the new chair of the Security Industry Authority (SIA), Heather Baily, in her first speech as chair of the UK regulator, to the Security Institute conference in London last week, Mark Rowe writes.

The SIA’s number one priority is the Protect Duty, and meeting the points arising from the Manchester Arena Inquiry, she made plain.

Heather Baily is the regulator’s fourth chair in its 15 years. If the occasion was a test – and the audience was an informed one, including one of her predecessors, Baroness Ruth Henig, now Institute president – it was a test Heather Baily passed. It was also noticeable that she chose to engage with the industry, staying until lunch after her 9am speech.

Once we got past the opening remarks (‘it really is a very exciting time for the SIA, there are huge opportunities for us to continue the work that has already been done in recent years to contribute to greater public safety and safeguarding’) she set out how the SIA is looking to meet criticisms (or rather, ‘recommendations’) set out in the first Arena Inquiry report, released in June; ten days after she took office, she recalled. For one thing, expect more visible SIA inspections and enforcement, more ‘feet on the ground’ as Heather Baily put it.

While she set out how the SIA is seeking to meet the recommendations of Arena Inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders’ report – and the SIA has been careful already to publish its work so far – about shortcomings in the SIA regime and security at the Arena before the suicide bombing of May 22, 2017 more generally, she did speak about non-terror issues, such as the shortage of door staff, much commented upon since the end of lockdown in the summer and the return of the night-time economy.

Taking questions from the floor after her talk, Bill McGlennon CSyP raised the age-old matter of minimum wage and low pay for security officers, hampering the attracting and retaining of people entering the sector. While not denying that – it cropped up in her speech – Heather Baily added that the SIA had found it was not just about wages; but conditions of employment, and working hours. As she said, it’s far easier to go and work at a covid testing station, Monday to Friday, without the unsociable hours, rather than ‘four hours in the cold on a Friday night’, which might include (verbal and even physical) abuse from pub-goers.

From a question put by past ASIS UK chair Russell Penny, who was attending the event remotely, it appeared that something long off the agenda – the licensing of security consultants, named in the Private Security Industry Act 2001, but never seriously acted upon – is on the agenda, again due to the requirements of the likely Protect Duty. The reason; sites seeking Protect Duty guidance will look for consultants to advise them, and as things stand anyone can call themselves a ‘security consultant’.

More in the December print edition of Professional Security magazine. Picture by Mark Rowe; Institute chair Peter Lavery and Baroness Henig on stage at the opening of the Institute conference before Heather Baily’s keynote speech.

See also the SIA’s counter-terror scenario training featured over three pages in the November 2021 print edition of Professional Security.


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