THE chief constable of Strathclyde has taken control of security in Glasgow for the Olympic Games, after beleaguered private firm G4S failed to deliver on its staffing contract.
Stephen House said he would take primary responsibility for security at Hampden Park and the athletes’ accommodation. G4S was to have run the day-to-day security, but after some of its employees failed to turn up for work earlier this week, Strathclyde Police concluded it should not be in charge of safety for residents, visitors and competitors.
Greater Manchester Police is also taking responsibility for security away from G4S.
Concerns about G4S staff not turning up and their levels of training and experience have been growing since it emerged the firm had been unable to deliver the promised 10,000 security staff for the Games.
Chief executive Nick Buckles admitted during an appearance before MPs that his firm’s effort had amounted to a “humiliating shambles” that had left its reputation “in tatters”.
Mr House said he took his decision after “recent developments”, but the force declined to be more specific.
Officers have been in daily discussion with G4S to try to ascertain what the final shortfall in staff numbers will be. Police say it will not weaken their presence in other parts of Glasgow, and that they will seek to recoup costs from the Home Office.
Home Secretary Theresa May said yesterday that G4S had assured her its recruitment difficulties were “teething problems” that would be resolved.
G4S has said it would be willing to pay any costs incurred by police or the army, which is committing 3,500 troops, as a result of its failings.
Strathclyde Police said: “Following recent developments surrounding security arrangements for the Olympic 2012 events in Glasgow, Chief Constable Stephen House has decided that Strathclyde Police will assume primary responsibility for security at Olympic venues.
“Strathclyde Police continues to work closely with Locog [the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games] and is absolutely committed to delivering a safe and secure games for competitors, spectators and everyone living in the force area.
“Extra officers will be deployed to these operations. However, this will have no impact on the level of service in our communities.
“At this time, we do not anticipate that there will be any need for military involvement. Discussions are under way with the convener of Strathclyde Police Authority, Councillor Philip Braat, the Scottish Government and the National Olympic Security Co-ordinator to make sure that all additional costs incurred will be fully reimbursed.”
G4S, which has a £284 million Games contract, is refusing to waive its £57m management fee, despite increasing criticism.
Jenny Marra, Scottish Labour’s community safety spokeswoman, said: “It is unacceptable that the public pay for the failings of G4S. I hope Strathclyde Police ensure they recoup any costs from providing more officers to police the Olympic events in Glasgow.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Strathclyde Police informed ministers that they no longer had confidence in the ability of G4S to provide proper security arrangements for the Olympic football events at Hampden, or in the hotels being used for the Games competitors and officials.
“They have therefore assumed primary responsibility for all aspects of Games security north of the Border.”
He said the “decisive action” had been welcomed by ministers.
Hampden will play host to men’s and women’s football matches during the Olympics – Spain v Japan, Honduras v Morocco and Egypt v Belarus in the men’s tournament, and United States v France, Colombia v North Korea, United States v Colombia, France v North Korea and a quarter-final in the women’s tournament.
Meanwhile, Ms May denied being selective in what she told MPs about the G4S staffing debacle, insisting the company told officials last month that any problems were temporary and would be sorted out. She said the gap in the numbers only became clear on 11 July, not two weeks earlier when the firm first reported problems.
Mrs May said that at the start of the month, G4S’s difficulties looked like “teething problems” that it would resolve.
“Crucially, it was not until 11 July that G4S finally said ‘Actually, we can’t resolve those initial problems, we won’t be able to provide the personnel’,” she said.
Asked what the Home Office was told at a meeting with G4S and Olympic organisers Locog on 27 June, Ms May said: “What happened was there were some early signs of a problem with rostering staff for G4S.”
She went on: “It was clear that G4S felt they were capable of dealing with that, that it would be resolved, and it was on 11 July, as the chief executive of G4S told parliament, the home affairs select committee, that G4S said ‘Actually, we now believe we cannot produce the staff we were contracted to produce’.”
But Ms May was accused of giving MPs a “selective account” about when she knew G4S were having problems supplying enough guards.