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Most of those responsible for the security of their organisations expect their security services to improve as a result of the regulation of the private security industry in England and Wales.
That’s according to a survey by Reliance Security Services.
Three-quarters of the 339 commercial and public sector organisations surveyed said they expected to see a higher quality service from their security personnel, while more than 80 per cent believed that education and training of security staff would improve.
The survey, done in July 2006, follows the introduction in March of regulations which require all contracted security personnel to be licensed. This involves a criminal record check, as well as a mandatory training period.
What they say
"This confirms our view that regulation of the private security industry has thus far been a largely positive experience for both security companies and their customers," said Michael Carré, managing director of Reliance Security Services.
Changes to security provision have prompted many organisations to examine more closely this area of their business. Almost half said they had increased spending on security manpower in the past year, with the biggest increase in expenditure, of 54pc, on electronic surveillance. Further increases are expected in the next three years, with technology-related solutions accounting for the largest anticipated increases.
Some 69pc of those working in the in-house sector – which does not come under the Private Security Industry Act 2001 – said they would like to see in-house security also brought under the auspices of the Act. One issue that divided respondents was that of cost. Some 44pc surveyed believed that licensing had increased the cost of their security provision. Of these, nearly a quarter said they would consider moving their team in-house as a result. The decision to exclude in-house security from the legislation surprised many in the industry; the fact that as a result of increased costs a quarter of respondents would consider an in-house solution in order to circumvent the new regulations is one that is likely to catch the eye of the Security Industry Authority, the regulator.
Some 70pc using contracted services believe that the in-house sector should also be regulated. More interestingly, the figure is almost identical in the in-house sector where 69pc believe their teams should be regulated.
There has been an interesting knock-on effect in this area: half of the respondents in the in-house sector stated that they have started vetting their security personnel more closely since the introduction of licensing for the contracted sector and a small proportion (12pc) said that they would consider outsourcing as a result of this increase in vetting.
A significant proportion (69pc) of respondents in the in-house sector also added that they believed those personnel who are unable to obtain a licence are likely to seek employment within in-house teams.
Commenting on the survey, Kaye Law, Director of Strategic Development at the SIA, said: "In 2004, we commissioned a review to explore the benefits and implications of extending the legislation to cover the regulation of in-house security guards, except for the circumstances where in-house guarding is already in scope. This revealed strong arguments for in-house security to be regulated especially in relation to public safety and clarity. However, there are significant challenges surrounding the use of appropriate definitions and the current government deregulation agenda. Moving forward will require collaboration between the SIA, the private security industry and other stakeholders and we aim to revisit this issue with interested parties during 2006/07."
Meanwhile, only 15pc of respondents said they would reduce manned security levels to lower costs, with 80pc stating that they would not.
The division over costs prompted some interesting responses regarding alternative solutions to security issues. For example, one in three of those surveyed said that they had, or would combine, manpower with a different security method to reduce costs. Of these, the majority said their preferred alternative would be remote monitoring for CCTV/access control (70pc). Around one third also said that they would consider using mobile patrols and alarm response services.
This trend has already been identified at Reliance, the security firm says, where the company’s Patrol Net service has seen a significant increase in business interest following the introduction of regulation.
"We are not surprised that more and more businesses are looking to change their mix of security solutions," said Michael Carré. "The new rules have provided an impetus for managers to view their security requirements from a different perspective and for some, mobile patrols or a combination of remote monitoring and mobile response services could be a key element of that."
This diversity of security provision was also highlighted in the survey. Where security is contracted out, reception duties represent the largest additional service provided (49pc), followed by CCTV surveillance (38pc), car parking (30pc), remote monitoring (20pc), cleaning (14pc) and building maintenance (10pc). Only a very small minority are provided with cash in transit (7pc), vehicle immobilisation (5pc) and close protection (4pc) services by their security provider.
However, with education and training of security personnel taking centre stage within the new working environment, industry executives expect to see the above figures increase, as contracted employees are entrusted with more and more responsibility.
"We hope that a growing number of businesses will see the changes that are being wrought in their security provision and that those changes can and will have a beneficial effect on their business," said Michael Carré. "At the same time, our people will be looking to capitalise on their new status by taking on any new duties that are required of them."
He points to schemes such the Project Griffin initiative in the City of London, where the police have enlisted the help of many of the Square Mile’s banks and other financial institutions to use their private security personnel in the fight against terrorism. Staff on door duty, for example, will report on any suspicious behaviour and relay their findings to the police, who host regular intelligence meetings with the private sector security personnel. As reported earlier in the year in Professional Security, the scheme is now being extended to other urban centres.
The scope and scale of the regulatory changes has also been the subject of much debate within industry circles. Proponents of the changes will therefore be heartened by the news that the majority of respondents (84pc) felt that they had been kept fully informed of their security provider’s progress in the run up to the licensing deadline. A similar majority (88pc) also felt that their security provider had fully supported the training and application process for its staff.
However, some 13pc surveyed claimed that they had not been kept informed of developments at all. Only 83pc of respondents could confirm that their supplier and its staff had met the requirements of licensing. Some 13pc believed that they had not met requirements, while a further 4pc declined to answer to the question. More than one in ten respondents (13pc) also said that they had either changed or intended to change supplier as a result of the changes.
There was a more positive response to the SIA’s voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme. Most respondents (88pc) stated that they are aware of the benefits of using a supplier with Approved Contractor status. However, just over two-thirds (70pc) could confirm that their supplier had achieved ACS accreditation, a further 19pc did not know whether their supplier had accreditation and 8pc said that their supplier did not have ACS.
When questioned about the potential disadvantages of regulation, a third of respondents (29pc) viewed the voluntary nature of the ACS as a negative factor, believing that it would make it impossible to ensure standards across suppliers.
Andrew Shephard, who manages the ACS at the SIA, said: "We believe that a voluntary scheme is more effective in raising standards and is more flexible and adaptable to react to industry changes and stakeholder needs." He also stressed that the SIA believed that it would be security customers who would increasingly use the ACS as an important tool in choosing their security supplier.
Another disadvantage of regulation, perceived by 51pc of respondents, was a likely shortage of qualified security staff due to the new rules. This marginally outweighed the increase in costs related to regulation which was cited by 50pc of respondents as a disadvantage. Almost half of those questioned also expressed concern that the new law may not be enforced properly. Just under a third of respondents (29pc) felt that there may be a potential loss of good personnel as a result of the stringent vetting and training criteria. Only a quarter (24pc) believed that licensing was an administrative burden that was likely to result in no improvement in standards.
In the last year, whilst almost half the respondents (44pc) said they had increased their expenditure on manpower, the biggest rise was in electronic surveillance where 54pc had increased their expenditure. Access control expenditure rose by 30pc whilst 14pc increased spend on remote surveillance. Mobile patrols and keyholding expenditure was increased by around 7pc of respondents.
Over the next 12 months to three years, similar increases are expected. More than half those questioned (57pc) anticipated a further increase in spending on electronic surveillance. Expenditure on electronic solutions was also expected to rise for access control (40pc) and remote surveillance (17pc) systems. Forty per cent of respondents expect a further increase in spend on manpower.
Despite the trend towards the use of existing and new technology, the majority (80pc) of those questioned said that they would be unlikely to move away from manpower as their main security provision in the next one to three years. The main reason stated in most cases was the irreplaceable requirement for ‘a human presence’ – either for customer care, deterrent or intervention purposes. This would also underscore the belief in the security industry that the changes being made will produce better trained, better valued and more committed security personnel. This will enable security customers to better integrate their security personnel into the running of their businesses and to undertake a wider variety of customer-focused tasks.
The survey results were based on questionnaire returns from 339 respondents operating in a variety of business sectors in England and Wales.
The majority of respondents (67pc) contract out their security or use an FM company (5pc). Some 10pc use a combination of in-house and contracted security, whilst 18pc have an in-house team.