Leader: G4S not solely to blame for Olympic security shortfall
NICK BUCKLES, the beleaguered chief of security firm G4S, faces searching questions this week amid growing consternation over his firm’s failure to recruit enough security staff for the London Olympics.
It is right that the company should be called to account and that he as chief executive should bear responsibility. But Olympic security is – and always has been – more than the responsibility of one firm to which security recruitment was outsourced. The Olympic organising bodies and the Home Office have all had an obligation to ensure that security arrangements were regularly reviewed and to check that last-minute crises were avoided.
It transpires that G4S was unable to recruit personnel of a sufficient standard and in sufficient numbers. As a result, some 3,500 troops are to be drafted in to make good the gaps in provision. This is a colossal shortfall by any standards. G4S says it stands to lose up to £50 million for failing to deliver the 10,000 staff it was contracted to provide. This begs pressing questions. What did those responsible know, and when did they know it? The complexity of the security requirements for a global event such as this is not to be overestimated. But that is all the more reason why early planning – and a system of early warning of problems – should have been in place. Mr Buckles has said that he only “began to know it was going wrong eight or nine days ago”.
And Home Secretary Theresa May has said she was made aware of the scale of the problem at G4S only last Wednesday. Earlier reports that security minister James Brokenshire attended daily senior-level Olympics security meetings now appear to have been incorrect and that meetings with Home Office officials, G4S and organisers Locog were not focused on the wider G4S recruiting problems, but on other issues.
Yet the government has acknowledged that inspectors raised concerns ten months ago about security planning for the Olympics. A confidential report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary had identified a number of issues, but it insisted these were all resolved by February. Clearly this was not the case.
Given the scale of the security challenges evident from the outset, it is deeply troubling that recruiting appropriate numbers of personnel was not top of the list of logistical concerns. So while G4S has some explaining to do, so, too, do those who had a broader oversight for security.
The organisers are extremely fortunate in being able to draft in thousands of British troops at such short notice without which the Games would have been left dangerously exposed.
A thoroughgoing inquiry across both government and private agencies must in due course determine why such a lapse was only apparently discovered – and acted upon – so late in the day.
Rain misery can’t stop soon enough
The nursery rhyme warning that if it rains on St Swithin’s Day, it will rain continuously for 40 days could easily be dismissed as folklore – until this year.
With the exception of the north-west of Scotland, such has been the near-continuous rain since April, few would be surprised if the weather continues in this dreadful vein for another month. There is talk of a respite this week. But dare we hope, after week upon week of relentless soaking and sodden clothes?
For thousands of tourist
businesses and organisers of summer events, this has been devastating. While it is true that holidaymakers do not come to Scotland for reliable weather, this year’s experience has broken records for rain misery. Families have been trapped indoors, shops have suffered a slump in takings, bed and breakfast and guesthouses across the land have stood empty and critical rural-economy events from Highland games to village fairs have had to be cancelled or truncated as the rain has turned even the most sheltered locations into muddy quagmires.
Thus, even before St Swithin’s Day yesterday, this summer has been a ruination and a killer experience for tourist-related business. Now farmers face a crisis of ruined harvesting.
The hope is that the autumn will bring some improvement. Scotland still scores well on great attractions such as the Edinburgh International Festival that are largely impervious to weather conditions, while any break in the clouds would bring a late surge of sun-starved families desperate for an outdoor break – and an end to the mood of national depression that has set in. It
cannot come soon enough.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South