One of my photos

Private police at public meetings

September 1st, 2011 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · 18 Comments · Politics

There is an interesting post over at Accessdocs about councils using private security firms to police public meetings. Tucked away towards the bottom is the information that Crawley council paid a private firm £2,475 to provide security at a single development control meeting last year. Anybody know what that meeting was about? I can’t remember any large contentious meetings last year, but then I have been out of the loop a bit.

Were they just called in to police Richard Symonds? Must remember to ask my comrades at tonight’s constituency meeting.

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18 Comments so far ↓

  • Richard W.

    Many a true word said in jest ?

    Even the unbelievable is believable now.

    For some lunatics – no names mentioned – if you’re called an “extremist”, that’s tantamount to being a “terrorist sympathiser” – even a “terrorist” – and therefore a “terrorist threat”.

    We live in an insane world, where the insane appear sane, and the sane appear insane.

  • robert the crip

    Labour has been doing the same for years, they hired a private firm right through Blair years and brown to guard the MP’s against people speaking to them, one was even thrown out of conference I was sitting a few feet away, my last conference.

    I never use a capital letter for brown names it’s not worth it.

    • Skuds

      Its not so much the principle in this case but the poor value for money of spending two-an-a-half thou to marshal people at a council meeting that wouldn’t last more than two or three hours.

      That sort of money would pay 40 guards £20 an hour for a three-hour meeting. It sounds like somebody is lining their pockets at our expense.

  • Richard

    I must admit at being at a loss to explain this.

    Having experienced a number of development control meetings over the years, I can’t recall any “private security” in evidence – just someone down at reception to direct people accordingly, and another in the room itself.

    As someone severely deaf, the Council (taxpayer) has been able to provide a speech-to-text reporter for certain CBC meetings.

    Maybe the Council made an error in allocating that cost to the “security”.

    But even if that happens, I know the cost isn’t £2475.00 !!

    Very strange.

  • Richard

    I can only come up with three possible explanations :

    1. Accounting mistake – we all make them, although not usually with taxpayers’ money.

    2. A threat of violence (eg anonymous phone call)
    which required covert security in place at that meeting.

    3. Someone’s taking the piss.

  • Martin

    Hi, Martin from Access Docs blog here. I’ve just had a look through the original documents and have a possible partial explanation.

    The meeting was on 22/01/10 and they paid £2,475 to a private security company called ‘Select Security & Stewarding Ltd.’ This has been identified by the council as money spent specifically on “security” work. But, I suppose it is possible that the total cost of £2,475 may have covered both security and stewarding. Still seems an awful lot though…

    • Skuds

      Thanks for that Martin.
      That is the company that does all the events at the K2 leisure centre.
      It does sound steep, unless there was a security presence far in excess of any I have seen at meetings before. In the past it was always Town Hall staff doing any stewarding, but maybe that has changed.

  • Richard W.

    CBC spent £1475 of taxpayers money on security guards for a January 2010
    Development Control meeting : an application to turn the
    Mercure Hotel in Povey Cross Road into a “Removals Centre” (aka
    Detention/Rendition Centre?)

    I can understand how, and why, CBC spent
    that sort of money on private security, but I cannot understand how, or
    why, CBC has kept quiet about it for nearly 2 years. It’s taxpayers
    money (our money), and therefore we should have been told what our
    money has been spent on. What else have they spent our money on which
    we don’t know about ?

  • Richard W.

    CRAWLEY NEWS – SEPT 7 2011 – PAGE 2 … story.html

    Crawley Borough Council spends £2,475 on security guards
    Wednesday, September 07, 2011
    Crawley News

    CRAWLEY Borough Council spent £2,475 on hiring security guards to protect councillors at a meeting which was only attended by a handful of protesters.

    It has emerged this week that a private firm was paid to provide security at a development control meeting in January, 2010.

    ?PHOTO : PEACEFUL PROTEST: Only a handful of protesters turned up

    An application to change a hotel near Gatwick Airport into a holding centre for illegal immigrants was discussed and refused.

    A small number of people protested peacefully outside the Town Hall before the meeting.

    But the council had feared things could get out of hand, so it was arranged for everyone to be searched before they were allowed into the meeting.

    On top of the security, police officers were also at the scene. Councillor Chris Oxlade, who was there, said: “I can understand why the council did it.

    “There were lots of chats on the internet where protesters were planning to storm the meeting.

    “The council should take every precaution in making sure no trouble starts. However, I think it is important to look at where we are spending lots of money.

    “I just hope the security firm hired was from Crawley, to keep pumping money into the town.”

    Local campaigner Richard Symonds, from Ifield, agreed the council was right to make sure councillors were safe but wants it to be more transparent with how it spends taxpayers’ money.

    He said: “I can understand how, and why the council spent that sort of money on private security for something like that.

    “I cannot understand how, or why, the council has kept quiet about it for nearly two years.”

    The owners of the Mercure Hotel, in Povey Cross Road, had applied to turn the building into a holding centre for illegal immigrants awaiting deportation.

    A council spokesman said: “We employed a security firm for a development control meeting in January 2010. This followed information that the meeting could be stopped or delayed by opponents to (the) application.”

    • Skuds

      I think we can answer Chris Oxlade’s question – the security firm were from Brighton (though their staff may be local).

      I still can’t see why the cost is so high and can only see three possibilities – a stupidly large number of personnel, extremely well-paid personnel, or a really nice profit for the supplier.

      • Richard W.

        Completely OTT from CBC.

        Police have to be notified of any public protest, as I well know.

        If trouble is anticipated, the police can be notified & updated.

        They ‘police’ the protest – and ensure safety & security. That’s their job, and they do it excellently from my experience.

        For the CBC to add extra security, by way of private security guards at a cost of £2475 (at our expense), was absurd.

        The Brighton private security firm must have been laughing all the way to the bank – grateful for the commercial naivete of a public council.

  • Richard W.

    Instead of Mercure Hotel, Povey Cross Road, it looks as though a former school, “Cedars” in Brighton Road Pease Pottage, has now become the detention centre for ‘illegal’ immigrants (“New centre for illegal immigrants”, Crawley News, Sept 7 2011 – Page 16).

  • Lee Gilroy

    Never posted on here before. So hopefully a warm welcome.
    I was Chair of the Dev Control meeting that night and although the cost does seem high there was a lot of background to this which I am sure CBC can provide.
    The build up to this was from police intelligence that there could be serious danger to the public, staff and members of the Development Control Committee.
    The organisation or group are known as “No Borders UK” and we were told that they would possibly take over the meeting and everyone may come to harm. So the Police advised the Council that extra security was needed and that the threat was high.
    On the night there was a lot of security and police presence in the room, so the meeting went ahead smoothly with only a few interruptions. In fact the protesters were happy with the result.
    If the Police didn’t advise for the Council to beef up security and it did all kick off then we would be condemning the Council and Police for not being prepared.
    All I can say is that the extra security worked as the meeting went ahead safely and the application was discussed and a decision made.
    The planning building up to this meeting took a few days of meetings between Police and Security.

  • Richard W.

    Thank you for that clarification Cllr Gilroy.

    I understand, but may I suggest it would have been advisable, at the time, to inform the taxpayer – via the local media – of this extra cost….rather than explaining now after it has been exposed by an outside body.

    The thinking taxpayer – to whom the Council is accountable – is left with an uneasy question : what other costs have been hidden which we don’t know about ?

    • Lee Gilroy

      As the Chair of the meeting and along with the other Committee members we would not have been aware of the costings at the time. I am sure that the spend would have been public in some way.

      There would be no reason to hide it. I will find out for you if it has been published in some form since the meeting.

  • Richard

    Still waiting…