MP in ‘private army’ warning as Government ups G4S spending

Barry Sheerman MP
Barry Sheerman MP

Labour MP Barry Sheerman claims to be “increasingly worried” about the level of money the government is spending with security giants G4S.

The Huddersfield MP tabled written parliamentary questions to all Whitehall departments asking about their spending on contracts with G4S since 2008. New figures obtained show G4S earned more than £394 million from the taxpayer in 2012/13, an increase from £328.5 million the previous year.

Some £51 million of the increase was down to extra spending by the Ministry of Justice, including contracts to run Birmingham and Oakwood prisons and managing facilities for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, and the Department for Work and Pensions more than doubled its spending from nearly £13.8 million to more than £32.1 million.

Sheerman admitted to concerns about an increasing over-reliance on a small number of companies. He claimed G4S are becoming the “private army” of the government due to its continued accruing of contracts.

He said: “The trouble is a lot of contractors are in a monopoly. They do seem to be swelling up and getting bigger and bigger and we are getting to the stage where the over-reliance on one company troubles you.

“I am becoming increasingly worried about the monopoly position that G4S have in security services.

“They are becoming the private army of Her Majesty’s Government. There is something going on that I think we need to shine a spotlight on.”

Kim Challis, CEO for government and outsourcing solutions at G4S
Kim Challis, CEO for government and outsourcing solutions at G4S

Kim Challis, CEO for government and outsourcing solutions at G4S, said the security giant has delivered “the highest levels of service” to the UK government for over two decades, while operating under a “high degree” of monitoring and oversight.

“We have won every contract we have been awarded by bidding in a highly competitive environment, based on delivering an effective service for the best deal for the taxpayer, with a number of providers challenging for the work,” she said.

“We have a strong track record of delivering for our UK Government customers and are proud of the service our 11,000 employees provide to them, and the general public, every single day.”

G4S hit the national headlines during 2012 when it failed to recruit enough guards to fulfil its contract for the London Olympics, which led to soldiers being called up to protect the Games.

Sheerman also claimed some small and medium-sized businesses who worked on the Olympic site were made to sub-contract to G4S, but have not been paid to date. He described his shock that public money was still being spent on G4S despite its failure to pay subcontractors that were not complicit in the security fiasco which surrounded London 2012.

“I thought it was amazing that such an amount is being spent on one major contractor, also at a time when we still know that G4S have failed to pay subcontractors who have worked for them on the Olympic site,” he said.

“I don’t know why they haven’t paid them, it is just bad principles. They were told at one stage in the development they were running the logistics and security of the athlete’s village. Once that was finished they became subcontractors and told to be subcontractors to G4S.

“One would have thought LOCOG would have leaned on G4S to do the honourable thing to the subcontractors.

“They were not complicit in the debacle that occurred when the army came in.”

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