The Olympic security crisis continues today as G4S recruits reveal chaotic vetting procedures, work scheduling and lack of training.
G4S has a £284m contract to provide 13,700 guards, but with just two weeks to go until the opening ceremony, it has only 4,000 in place with a further 9,000 to come. Home secretary Theresa May offered up an additional 3,500 troops to step into the breach, while denying that doing so was evidence of a shambolic failure on G4S's part to fulfill its contract. But why the last-minute scramble for security guards? It's not as though the Olympics came as a surprise to anyone.
Strangely, part of the problem is the amount of advance notice for the Olympics. It's all very well to advertise a job in March which is due to start in July, but who's going to accept a job where they have to wait more than four months for their pay packet? No-one, that's who. So an unseemly last-minute rush is nearly inherent in the process unless G4S were going to pay recruits from when they first accepted the job.
There's also the question of G4S's involvement in the government's controversial Work Programme (that's the one where benefit claimants can face sanctions if they turn down unpaid work experience placements). The Guardian reported in January that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) allocated £5bn to the Work Programme over seven years, of which G4S could take a £250m share. Their contract is to find jobs for 125,000 jobseekers, potentially saving the government £1bn a year in benefits payments.
So, G4S have a large pool of the unemployed at their fingertips, and carte blanche to deploy them in whatever way they see fit. Could the original plan have been to use unpaid benefits claimants as security guards? Close Protection UK tried this for the Jubilee celebrations and it didn't go too well. CPUK are also contracted to provide security staff for the Olympics. It's not beyond the bounds of possibility that someone at G4S spotted an opportunity to align both their DWP and Olympic contracts in a profitable fashion, although this is clearly speculation on our part.
According to the Guardian report, G4S urgently requested help from retired police officers on Thursday, but one former police officer told the paper:
"They were trying to process hundreds of people and we had to fill out endless forms. It was totally chaotic and it was obvious to me that this was being done too quickly and too late."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, G4S is unable (or unwilling) to comment at this stage, telling the Guardian:
"We are unable to respond to the specific questions you raise because to do so would involve pulling staff, who are working hard to mobilise the 2012 workforce, off the work they are doing."
Security measures around the Games passed the point of parody some time ago — on Thursday, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that they would enforce airspace restrictions with fighter jets and helicopters. Earlier this week, Leytonstone residents lost a legal challenge over surface-to-air missiles mounted on the roof of residential flats.
What other measures are in place? Well, all of them, we think. More military personnel than Afghanistan? Check. Secret SAS base? Check. Retired MI5 agents to keep an eye on things? Check. A warship, eight Lynx helicopters and Royal Marine snipers? Check. More snipers in helicopters? Check. Sonic weapon? Check.
We also pondered fear and security last month, while Diamond Geezer highlighted the invasive security measures in place around Westfield Stratford City. Even the walking and cycling routes bordering the Olympic Park have been blocked off.
If G4S do manage to recruit those 13,700 guards, at least they can help the army police the Great Chip Embargo. With missiles.
Photo by Guy Tyler in the Londonist Flickr pool.