Managing Editor, IFSEC Insider

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James Moore is the Managing Editor of IFSEC Insider, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry.James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Insider, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
February 28, 2023


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Barriers and benefits to public-private sector collaboration: The City Security Council

As countries and businesses look to continually build in better resilience and continuity measures, there is a growing requirement for the public and private sector to come together and collaborate. Indeed, the findings from the Manchester Arena Attack Inquiry pointed to the need for improved practices in this area. One such example, the City Security Council, proves that initiatives are viable – though they are not without their challenges.  

David Ward, Director, DW Associates

David Ward, Director, DW Associates

The topic was discussed at this year’s OSPAs Thought Leadership Summit on 23 February, where David Ward, Director, DW Associates, presented on the formation of the City Security Council in London – a shining example of where public entities and private sector competitors have come together.

The initiative came about following the Westminster Bridge Attack in 2017, where more than 50 people were injured and four were killed following a car being driven onto the pavement into pedestrians and the stabbing of an unarmed police officer.

Now a collective of over 40 security guarding companies based in and around the City of London, the group’s key objective is to work in close collaboration and support of the City of London Police and City of London Corporation when major incidents or times of crisis strike.

Certainly an impressive aim, then. Indeed, it is one that has now, among other things, created a Charter to standardise effective response from security companies in times of emergency, and created a communications portal for information sharing. In addition, since its inception there have been several hi-visibility partnership days to raise awareness and highlight the levels of collaboration, response, prevention and deterrence in place.

However, as David attested to during his presentation, the project has not been without its challenges.

Barriers to private-public sector collaboration

With the launch of the CityINTEL platform for communication between the 40-odd members and public entities coming in April 2022, almost five years after the process began, collaborative efforts clearly aren’t always ‘smooth sailing’.

While the private member companies are competitors day-to-day, there was an obvious benefit to many for a shared communications platform. And, for those that weren’t immediately taken by the idea, it quickly became apparent that they did not want to miss out. All members must be ACS accredited, or be able to show that they are working towards achieving this standard.

Keeping this early momentum will no doubt be a harder challenge, but David particularly highlighted the many unforeseen challenges when working with public entities that led to several delays, and bear recognition for future initiatives.

A global pandemic notwithstanding, delays incorporated everything from approvals, communication plans, loss of key personnel during the process, data protection impact assessments, and several more.

Though approval processes and comms plans are not always swift in the private sector, there was an acknowledgment that this becomes an altogether different beast in the public sector.

Approvals often have to go through several layers, with stakeholders who may not even be directly involved in the project requesting oversight. With this, comes slower decision making, as getting time with an authoritative decision maker isn’t always straightforward.


Lessons learned?

Summarising the lessons the City Security Council has learnt on this journey, a key point was that any public-private sector collaborative project has to be realistic about timelines. Both sides have to understand each other, and work around internal barriers that may impact the overall project, so creating a strategic document for everyone to work from would be beneficial for all parties, David added.

Clearly, however, the project has evolved into a genuine partnership. The Council is even beginning to extend its membership beyond the City of London, in the belief that such a collaborative approach will have a major benefit to the security industry, and the communities and assets it protects.

Noteworthy findings from the Manchester Arena Inquiry Volume 1 Report included a lack of communication between security employees, but also “insufficient sharing of information between those concerned with security in and around the arena”. While we await the next steps of the Protect Duty, findings such as this plainly accentuate the need for public-private sector collaboration efforts, regardless of legislative requirements.

This is exactly what the City Security Council is designed to do, with the ultimate aim of improving the safety of the UK’s communities. Private and public sector collaboration might be challenging, but there is much to be said for patience when working towards shared goals, as this initiative exemplifies.


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