Blimey, three blogs in three days, my quill needs a rest.
I am grateful to my old sparring partner @DrinkyMcEyeball for bringing this matter from July to my attention. I don’t know how I missed it, this juicy news titbit must have been buried beneath something far more mundane.
G4$, who are they? As far as I can recall they are the combination of Group 4 and Securicor, two companies who made their names (and fortunes no doubt) ferrying large quantities of cash around the UK in armoured Transits in a time when Jack Reagan ruled the roost.
As far as I’m concerned both companies were quite good at doing that, and, personally, I have no criticisms of their performance in that sector. Fast Forward to today and we have two companies merged into one, and Mr Angry has clearly missed something somewhere along the way. The G4$ website boasts this
“G4S has the international reach and resources to meet the security needs of the global age
Our broad geographic reach
G4S has a unique global footprint with operations in over 120 countries, including a strong presence in higher growth developing markets.
We have more than 620,000 employees worldwide, making G4S one of the worlds largest private employers.
Whether you require a security solution in one location or across multiple continents, our global experience is always on hand to bring you advantages.”
A tad more comprehensive than a fleet of ageing Transit vans, and good luck to them.
Then we get this
Securing the delivery of government services and promises – at home and abroad
Societies cannot thrive and prosper if people are not safe and secure.
From dealing with the threat of international terrorism to safeguarding their assets, governments today face an ever-changing set of security challenges.
G4S plays an important role in society by helping to ensure that governments are able to meet the expectations of their citizens, employees and legislative bodies – and by delivering tangible benefits within strict budgetary limits.
At G4S, we draw on our global experience of working with governments to secure government buildings and key assets around the world, support the justice and security strategies of nations and ensure that government personnel are well prepared to operate in some of the world’s conflict hotspots.
As a result, governments are better able to protect critical assets, deliver essential government services and effectively manage the increasing constraints on government expenditure.”
Clearly a global business with government contracts at the heart of their Business Plan.
All this and much, much more is freely available of the G4S Website, but that is not why I’m troubling my quill this morning. Drinky brought to my attention a news item from July 2013 entitled
My first reaction (sorry G4$ I was a bit judgemental here) was WTF do they know about running children’s homes? I very soon realised that was not the point of the article.
A man called Simon Herbert allegedly put in a planning application to convert a house into a children’s home in Buckinghamshire. The house stands in Vale Road, Aylesbury, on a mixed estate of mostly owner-occupiers. Herbert gave the local planning authority his residential address, 27 miles away, in the village of Lidington near Milton Keynes.
But the children’s home provider wasn’t Simon Herbert, the man from a village up the road. It was G4S, the world’s largest security company headquarters Crawley, close to Gatwick Airport. The G4S name did not appear on the planning application. Simon Herbert is in fact the commercial director of G4S Children’s Services.
That wasn’t the only odd thing about it.
A Supporting Statement purporting to come from ‘Childrens Services‘ was sent to Aylesbury Vale District Council.
It’s on the Council’s website for members of the public to read. The document bears a cheery logo — four smiley faces, and the slogan “Caring for Children”.
Amid eight positive pages, it claims: “Both Local and National Planning Policy support the proposed change of use.”
That sounds reassuring. Who wrote it? Perhaps the Local Authority Children Services department?
Well, no. The document from ‘Childrens Services’ is by G4S. Yet the company name appears nowhere upon it.
A search for Simon Herbert’s name on other applications to convert houses into children’s homes shows that he’s been busy. There’s an application to Milton Keynes Council to convert a property in Great Linford. And another one to South Northamptonshire Council to turn a house into a children’s home in the village of Middleton Cheney. No mention of G4S.
Company spokesperson Nicola Savage has apparently said that there were four such planning applications under consideration — in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Worcestershire. She claimed:
“It is common practice for planning applications for change of use to be made in an individual’s name, and in fact the vast majority of applications for Children’s Homes are made in this way. There are also commercial considerations which mean we would prefer our competitors are not informed of our plans.”
The Children Act, Guidance and Regulations, Volume 5, Children’s Homes, 2011 ) apparently places a requirement on all providers to take into account the location of similar services in the area when considering the location of new children’s homes.
That’s going to be difficult if they are secretive about it.
One of the local residents had this to say on the matter;
“G4S tried to fly under the radar by using an employee’s name on the planning application, they have fabricated claims about traffic movements on the application and they say that residents were consulted about the home. In fact the residents held a privately funded meeting and invited G4S to speak, otherwise there would have been NO contact whatsoever! The saga continues, but the moral of this story is study all Planning Notices with care as G4S could be entering your lives by using their under hand, bullying tactics!”
As a complete aside to the above, G4S Children’s Services Manager for Safety Health & Environment is one Dave Beadnall. Nine years ago Beadnall was one of three G4S guards involved in the fatal restraint of youngster Gareth Myatt at Rainsbook Secure Training Centre near Rugby.
I don’t really have a strong view on who runs Children’s Homes, just so long as they know what they’re doing and can provide a quality service, but this would appear to be yet another example of insidious privatisation eroding public services, but that’s just the way I see it, the reality may be different.
My main concerns are twofold;
1) G4$ had an absolutely awful Olympic Games last year. I have no desire to repeat the well-reported problems that surfaced there, but Central Government doesn’t appear to be the slightest bit reluctant to award yet more lucrative contracts to G4$. Why not?
And secondly, to me, far more more importantly;
2) Any contracts, services, procurement etc that are conducted which have any connection whatsoever with the Police Service should be conducted with total transparency and integrity. Apart from the obvious reasons, I believe that the public look at any organisation connected with the Police, e.g. Police Staff, PCSO, Police Surgeon, Jailers, Matrons etc etc and do not see beyond POLICE. It’s completely beyond my sphere of influence (I don’t really have one of those) as to who gets these contracts, or whether these services should be outsourced, but it’s not at all unreasonable to expect any such company who benefits from outsourced Police services to behave with honesty and integrity, i.e. the same standards as though it was the Police themselves that were providing this service. Is that too much to ask?
My question is simple. Based on the information above, did G4$ act with honesty and integrity in relation to the Children’s Homes? Should they be allowed to act in such a manner when conducting Police business. or indeed any Public Service business?
Answers on a postcard please via the privatised Royal Mail