The Home Office has issued a detailed 76-page report setting out the findings of the Government’s Triennial Review of the Security Industry Authority (SIA), the Regulator for the private security industry whose primary purposes are to assist in reducing criminality in the sector, raise standards and recognise quality service.
Of course, the SIA does so by way of its three main functions: the compulsory licensing of individuals undertaking designated activities in security, compliance checks and managing the voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS), which itself measures the performance of private security suppliers against independently assessed criteria.
This Triennial Review was conducted on behalf of Home Secretary Sajid Javid by Tony Regan, a senior official in the Crime, Policing and Fire Group that sits within the Home Office. The Review received evidence as to the background to (and purpose of) the Private Security Industry Act 2001.
In line with Cabinet Office guidance on tailored reviews for what are referred to as ‘Arm’s Length Bodies’, the thorough process has considered the relevance of both the regulatory regime and the Regulator, duly evaluating the SIA’s performance against the purpose of the Act, which both seeks to offer protection for members of the public and professionalise the private security industry.
The report states that the private security industry operates “effectively” and that regulation plays a large part in this. Pleasingly, one of the key conclusions reached is that regulation is still required. “It should be retained and improved,” observes the Triennial Review.
In terms of the Regulator’s performance, the report deems that the SIA has operated to a “satisfactory standard” as a Regulator and should be retained, “but now is the time to focus on how it [the SIA] can make changes to achieve regulatory Best Practice” that will “take the industry forward”. The Triennial Review observes that a systemic and systematic approach to securing and improving standards should be the focus of the future regulatory system. “The SIA should be given the necessary additional tools, including sanctions, to lead the industry in its improvement.”
According to the Review’s recommendations, the SIA should improve its risk-based approach to private security industry regulation, focusing its efforts on those sectors, operators or purchasers where the greatest risk exists. In turn, the SIA should reduce burdens within the regulatory framework.
Recognising that the private security industry is “a significant asset” to the UK’s security and safety, the Review document asserts that there’s a real opportunity to enhance the industry’s contribution to public protection, safeguarding and national security. “The SIA should focus on ensuring that the private security industry performs to high standards and facilitates integration between the industry and local, regional and national agencies to the benefit of the industry, agencies and the wider public.”
Importantly, the suggestion is that this approach needs to be underpinned and publicly endorsed by the Home Office. “A gateway of information sharing between the SIA and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will significantly enhance the capabilities of both organisations in supporting public protection. These arrangements should be put in place at the earliest opportunity.”
Of course, the subject of business licensing is addressed. “All businesses offering security services – whether operating under contract or in-house – where there is a risk to public protection, safeguarding and national security should be subject to a business licensing scheme linked to a system of private security industry standards on a mandatory basis. Business licences should only be issued to those companies who meet the voluntary revised Approved Contractor Scheme standards.”
On that note, the Triennial Review points out that the current ACS operated by the SIA “needs to be refreshed and strengthened. It should be streamlined with existing industry schemes and enhanced to provide a single set of private security industry graduated (ie Bronze/Silver/Gold/Platinum or similar) standards offering purchasers clear differentiation within the market. The ACS should be industry-owned and administered with the SIA setting standards and overseeing compliance.”
The subject of de-regulation is also addressed within the report. “While remaining focused on risk, the SIA should develop a strategy to enable individual licensing to be progressively replaced with business licensing where it’s safe and appropriate to do so. In doing so, the SIA will need to determine the criteria to enable this, including prerequisites such as appropriate vetting and qualifications. The SIA should agree de-regulatory targets and timetables with the private security industry and the Home Office.”
The purchasers of private security industry services play a large part in determining private security industry service quality, but there are concerns about the extent of the formal accountability they have for their purchasing decisions, including the impact on standards and public protection.
The Triennial Review observes: “The SIA should conduct further research to consider the legislative options. The Home Office should consider the proposals and, if necessary and appropriate, identify a suitable legislative vehicle to mandate purchasers to use private security industry services from businesses that meet the revised voluntary ACS standards.”
The Triennial Review document finds that there is scope for greater efficiencies within the SIA which will, in turn, reduce burdens on the industry. “The SIA should focus on reducing accommodation and staff costs and consider the merger of both back office functions as well as the development of major projects with other similar ‘Arm’s Length Bodies’. In doing so, it should engage with wider Government Centres of Excellence (for instance, the Government Procurement Unit, Government Digital Services and specialists in Shared Services and Commercial Models).”
The Triennial Review recommends a “systematic transformational approach towards regulation” underpinned by the following features: an increased focus on risk, closer partnership working with industry to reflect regulatory Best Practice, the introduction of shared standards with incentives and sanctions that reward achievement with less regulatory burden and that incentivise aspiration, mutually reinforcing measures with increased purchaser focus on standards, but also being rewarded with potentially lower insurance premiums for doing so and, last but not least, clearer market signalling through the above measures, subsequently bringing “transparency and confidence” to private security industry activities.
In the Executive Summary to the report, the following conclusion is reached: “Over time, the Review believes that the steps recommended here will lead to both better and less regulation. In the view of the Review, the closer companies come to securing higher standards, the less SIA regulation will be necessary. Indeed, this vision is reflected in the SIA’s Corporate Plan. If purchasers, the private security industry and the SIA can identify further incentives, such as reduced fee burdens for those delivering to a higher standard, there should be less intrusion and commensurate reductions in regulatory costs and burdens.”
Response from the Regulator
The SIA has responded to the publication of the Home Office Review of the Regulator. Alan Clamp, CEO of the SIA, said: “We welcome the publication of this Triennial Review of the SIA and of the regulatory regime for private security. Many of the findings reflect the SIA’s published priorities, some of which we are already delivering successfully, while others are reflected in our strategic plans going forward.”
Clamp concluded: “We’re enthusiastic about the findings and recommendations of this Triennial Review. We will work in partnership with the Home Office and the Devolved Administrations to implement all parts of this Review which the Government wishes to take forward. We also stand ready to take on any extended areas of regulation should the Government ask us to do so.”
The SIA was established back in 2003 by the aforementioned Private Security Industry Act 2001. The organisation regulates over 300,000 individuals in the private security industry and issues over 100,000 licences per annum. This process is administered by around 200 staff at an annual cost of approximately £26 million.
Any resource surplus from fee income passes to the Home Office and is then surrendered to Her Majesty’s Treasury, except in those cases where there’s agreement that it be retained by the Home Office.
*Read the Triennial Review document in full on the Home Office website