National Doorwatch Chair, Ian Fox, questions the Governments stance on protecting public safety in the Night-time Economy.
This Governments attack on Public Safety in the Night-time Economy: Calculating or cowardly, or both?
This Governments attack on the Night-time Economy (NTE) is putting the public’s safety, the safety of their children, and the lives of all those working in the Events and Leisure sector at risk. Sadly this Government has chosen to tread the well worn path of previous Governments by making the NTE into Public Enemy No1. As usual the NTE are set up to take the blame and deflect attention from the Governments failure to face up to its wider social responsibilities. As a result, instead of working to support a NTE, which provides hundreds of thousands of jobs and contributes some £66billion to GDP, the Government appear to be doing the exact opposite. One of the key factors for a successful NTE is the customer’s perception of personal safety. The Government’s current policies are creating an environment where lawlessness can flourish, and the customer’s perception of personal safety in the NTE is being grossly distorted.
To those working outside the industry this may seem a somewhat inflammatory statement. Senior figures will point to falling crime figures in the NTE, and technically they will be correct. Rest assured the real reason for the falling crime rate, is that reporting any crime in the NTE is a virtually pointless exercise for the victim. The already under-resourced and hard-pressed Police are further hamstrung by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) attitude toward crime in the NTE. This was typified by the Head of the CPS, Kier Starmer, stating on national television that crimes up to and including Common Assault, should wherever possible be dealt with by a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) of £80. The latest idea is the use of “Restorative Justice", to help the victim achieve closure, and the perpetrator face up to the enormity of the suffering their actions caused. Apparently as a result of this process they will be so overcome with guilt; they will never do it again.
Worse still the Government are placing additional financial burdens on those doing business in the NTE, in the form of the “Late Night Levy”. I am sure there are policies which have been more irrational, illogical, and ill-conceived than this, but none spring immediately to mind. The Government state these taxes will be used to provide additional Police, and Community services in the NTE. Having spoken to Police Officers and officials in Local Authorities across the UK the money raised, will in fact be used to replace funding lost in the cuts. Therefore this policy is in fact merely political window dressing, designed to make the Government appear strong, when in fact the reverse is true. The impact of this charade will be to squeeze profits, which will lead to security budgets being cut. The reason for this is the provision of security is an intangible; its potential contribution to profits cannot be measured. Consequently companies are more willing to risk cuts to security, in order to ensure their survival. Inevitably this places everyone using the NTE at greater risk, workers, and public alike.
Interestingly, this Government refuses to accept the impact of cheap booze on society provided by Supermarkets, and other off-trade retailers, on the NTE and communities. At a recent conference the most telling comment from one of the panellists was “...in the old days alcoholics drank mentholated spirits, because they couldn’t afford the real stuff – now they have to drink the real stuff, because mentholated spirits are too expensive”. The only conclusion one can draw from this is the Government do indeed want a “Big Society” - a “Big Society” where its citizens are encouraged to sit at home and get drunk on cheap booze. This is vaguely reminiscent of the old Soviet Cold War joke, that they kept political dissent to a minimum by keeping the maximum amount of the population possible sedated on cheap Vodka!
The other area where the Government are also in the thrall of big business/contributors is the Private Security Industry. The attempted abolition of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) displayed a frightening and almost criminal lack of knowledge, by those involved. Rest assured the SIA does need to be reformed, and it does need its remit to be clarified and strengthened. However, all of us working at the sharp end of the Security Industry know the Private Security sector, still has many miles to travel before it achieves the maturity necessary to be returned to self-regulation. Consequently, any reforms must properly reflect the needs of the different sectors, and the type of security they provide.
In conclusion, the Government needs to understand the vital role played by the Events & Leisure Security workers in the NTE. The reality of the cuts means there will be less Police Officers available to secure the NTE. The people best placed to do this at the moment, are those already employed to help provide a safe environment for workers and customer using the NTE, which is the Events & Leisure Security sector. The Police and Local Authorities needs to properly support, and encourage the Events & Leisure Security sector to step up to the challenge. This is essential if the Government is serious about protecting the public.
It is for this reason we believe the Events & Leisure Security sector should come together to ensure we are properly represented in any area which affects out interests. We believe that the customer-facing skills of Events & Leisure Security workers, operating in the NTE under very challenging conditions, can create the foundations for a strong NTE. The Events & Leisure Security sector must be willing, able, and determined to play its part in this objective. We trust all our partners, clients, fellow providers, our staff, and all our friends, will actively support this ambition to secure the future.National Doorwatch.
The Booking Office
Lincoln LN1 2HB
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