Saturday, 14 July 2012

A Group For Security

Once upon a time, in the early nineteen-nineties, there was a security company, and it was called Group Four. Group Four was just like any other anonymous and unheralded business going about its daily tasks with no public attention at all, until one day when it landed a massive government contract to transport prisoners from court-to-prison and prison-to-prison.

You see, the problem was that Group Four basically had two functions. 1: To move bags of money about safely. 2: To have people walk or sit around and make sure things didn't get nicked from their clients.

It really wasn't difficult. Dangerous sometimes, yes. Such is the nature of the industry. But moneybags don't wander off by themselves, so as long as staff weren't being attacked by thieves, the moneybags were okay. Sitting looking at CCTV was also easy enough, and wandering around in a smart uniform looking a bit policey is also a piece of cake.

Sadly, Group Four thought transporting prisoners would be like transporting money. They forgot prisoners have legs, a desire to not be prisoners, and mates on the outside. It wasn't like looking at CCTV or moving inanimate objects around at all.

So bad was the ability of Group Four to actually carry out the task expected of them that their parent company ended up changing the name of the business to G4S, ostensibly because they had acquired another security firm and merged them, but mainly because Group Four had become a complete joke.

Now, I'm not saying that like Group Four, G4S is a joke. But I am saying there are certain parallels that are hard to ignore. The amusingly named gaffer, Nick Buckles (does he steal buckles? When does Nick buckle?) says in the article that he knew "8 or 9 days ago" that things were going tits-up. Really, Nick? Only 8 or 9 days ago? Not when your firm had a load of unemployed draftees dumped under a flyover in London at 4am for "training", with no waterproof clothing or a place to stay? That wasn't a clue?

So they're drafting in the army to help.

I'm not being funny, but that sounds like it would have been the best bet all along. Whatever you think of the lads and lasses our wonderful government send off to die on foreign soil, year in, year out, who is better equipped to do the job? We're talking about a body of people of whom about 20% are going to get shafted onto the dole queue in two years time, and the remainder will no doubt be sucked into America's next pointless venture into the Middle East; or Syria as it's currently known. Why not make good use of professionally trained, adequate, armed, patriotic people already at the nation's service?

Why not? Well, because to do so would suggest that the concept of contracting national work to private industry isn't a workable solution to the betterment of the nation. It might suggest that the process of tendering isn't valid or worthwhile. It might suggest that if we lift the corners of the private sector's rugs we might find a lot more swept under there than dust...

The Olympics will be a success, regardless of news like this (or the rain). But I can't help feeling that we, as a nation, have already sold ourselves short by not making use of our armed forces for securing the visitors, athletes, and locations for the whole event. Why are we proud to send our "brave heroes" to die in a pointless conflict, but not proud to have them watch over us in the most remarkable event to hit this nation in this millennium?

I believe the Armed Forces are the best people for the job, and Group 4 (sorry, G4S) can just give their contract money back to us taxpayers. They're not welcome.

Oh, and as an afterthough: many years ago some friends (or possibly customers) of my parents were involved in a head-on collision with a Group Four security van on a secluded country road. Both were critically injured, and the men in the van sat there and watched them both bleed to death because they weren't allowed to get out of the van and give help, even though they carried a first aid kit on board and could probably have saved both lives. Oh well, they followed the rules and radioed the emergency services.

So not only is the business incompetent, they're also killers. Nice people to do business with...