Abolition of the Security Industry Authority would be an act of utter folly. By Terry O’Neil

The news that the Home Office is considering scrapping the Security Industry Authority ( SIA), as part of it’s planned “Bonfire of the Quangos”, which apparently seeks to reduce cost, red tape and return accountability to the grass roots, would be an act of utter folly.

We only need to look back to the days of self-regulation to realise the advantages which the licensing of staff and the introduction of a voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) has given to the contract manned guarding industry. In 2012 The Olympics come to London and with it the requirement for a huge number of additional licensed Security Officers—it is almost certainly the most high profile event that now appears on the world stage and we would seriously consider handling it with a self regulated industry? If the Coalition Government went down that route and, as a result, we suffered another tragedy such as happened at “The Munich Games”, then arguably they could even struggle to survive such a catastrophe.

At the Security Watchdog we totally endorse the comments made by the Chief Executive of The International Professional Security Association, Justin Bentley, who said “The Security Industry and the employees within the industry may welcome the financial relief of removing the costs of licensing, however the risk of the criminal element re-entering the industry is still too great to justify abolishing licenses. With cuts likely to be made in the budgets of all police services, now is a time when the private security industry which will take up the slack, needs to be licensed by government to ensure public confidence remains high. Whilst licensing started in 2003, it was introduced in various stages and has been in place for a relatively short time in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The positive benefits to the industry in England and Wales must be seen to be implemented in these countries as well. Greater financial prudence and taking advantage of improvements in technology in areas such as the Criminal Records Bureau should be sufficient to reduce the costs and hence lessen the financial burden on the industry, without reducing the benefits brought in by licensing. As a trade association with a membership consisting of both individuals and companies, we wish to encourage the government to not make any hasty decisions and allow the Security Industry Authority to continue with its task of ensuring that the public is not placed unnecessarily at risk”

On the very same day that this news broke, the national newspapers resounded with the headlines “Police give up fight as yobs take over” in which Police have lost control of the streets, the forces watchdog warns, as new figures show that an estimated 14 million incidents of anti-social behaviour take place each year—one every two seconds! Sir Denis O’Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, says that the rowdy and abusive behaviour of yobs has been allowed to “fester” because police have retreated from the streets in the past two decades.

It seems inconceivable therefore that in an age where there is such an urgent need to increase the “wider police family”, we should even be considering such a retrograde step as reverting to a self regulated Industry. Those of us who worked at the helm of major contract manned guarding companies at that time realise just what an act of folly it would be to abandon licensing and the Security Industry Authority.