London 2012: G4S 'only knew eight days ago' of shortage


G4S Security boss Nick Buckles: "We are very, very disappointed and embarrassed"

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Senior managers at G4S only realised "eight or nine days ago" that they could not provide enough security guards for the London Olympics, the company's chief executive has said.

Nick Buckles told the BBC that problems in the recruitment and deployment process were only recently identified.

G4S will lose between £30m-£50m on the contract, which is worth about £280m.

Shadow minister Dame Tessa Jowell said the "integrity and resilience" of the security plan must be established.

Mr Buckles, who reportedly earns £1.2m per year in salary and bonuses, said the company accepted it had "underestimated the task of supplying staff to the Olympics".

"We deeply regret that and we are deeply disappointed. It was a daunting task to supply that number of staff in a short timescale.

"I began to know it was going wrong eight or nine days ago. Basically we are recruiting a large number of people and they are all working through a process of interview, two or three different degrees of training, licensing and accreditation.

"It is only when you get closer to the Games, you realise that the number is not as high as you expect," Mr Buckles added.


Theresa May said she only found out G4S couldn't deliver the goods last Wednesday. The firm's chief executive said he discovered how bad things were nine days ago. So there were six days when he knew but the home secretary didn't.

That's despite daily meetings between the security firm, the Home Office and Locog, the committee charged with making the Games happen.

The BBC's been told senior level meetings, to discuss security, have been taking place for three weeks. The minister with responsibility, James Brokenshire, has been attending. G4S told the BBC it had always given Home Office officials and ministers "total visibility" about what it was doing, as part of a "transparent process".

Yet the home secretary, and presumably her minister James Brokenshire, didn't know about the failure to recruit until Wednesday.

At the start of last week, Mrs May told Parliament she was confident their partners would deliver.

Labour is urging her to update the Commons saying there are serious questions about the level of oversight. One party source said if ministers were relying solely on what G4S were telling them then that was "just being a patsy".

G4S signed the contract with Locog in 2010 to supply 2,000 security staff to work at Olympic venues.

In December 2011, the Games organisers asked the company to provide some 8,000 more, bringing the total to approximately 10,000 staff.

The value of the contract is about £284m. The company has predicted costs will reach approximately £330m, and estimated loses in the region of £30m-£50m.

Allowing for attrition - reduction in numbers due to factors such as sickness and no-shows - the company had to recruit nearly 14,000 people in total.

About 110,000 people applied for security jobs, and 50,000 were interviewed.

Mr Buckles confirmed on Saturday that 4,000 staff were "ready to go", having been trained and vetted, and received uniforms and instructions about their job.

A further 9,000 applicants were "in the process of being scheduled", meaning they had been trained and have security clearance, but did not have deployment information.

Mr Buckles described the recruitment process as "very complex", with applicants having to be "screened, SIA (Security Industry Authority) trained and licensed, role specific trained and accredited by the Home Office".

He would not confirm exactly what penalty the government was imposing on the company for failing to fulfil the contract. But he estimated the figure would be about £10m-£20m.

'Integrity and resilence'

The Commons Public Accounts Committee has summoned G4S, two government departments and 2012 organiser Locog to answer questions in September.

Start Quote

We are very very grateful to the military for providing this support... We are grateful that they are giving up time with family to help us.”

End Quote Nick Buckles Chief executive, G4S

Mr Buckles has been asked to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee next week.

Dame Tessa Jowell, the shadow minister for the Olympics, said a review into security at the Games should wait until after the event has finished.

She said the breakdown in security planning had been identified and remedied "in a way that the public can have confidence in."

But she added: "The focus now has got to be on nailing this down and ensuring the integrity and resilience of the security plan."

Elsewhere Clint Elliott, chief executive of the National Association of Retired Police Officers, said reports G4S asked his organisation to assist were wrong.

He said: "It is astonishing that G4S can't have recruited these people in a time of high unemployment and at a time when many police officers are being forced to retire early and are actively looking for work.

"G4S claim they contacted us but they never did. What G4S tend to do is rely on the old boys network and word of mouth to recruit people from our organisation - which is okay for small numbers but for 10,000 people you really need something a bit more substantial."

A spokeswoman for G4S confirmed it had not contacted the NARPO. Instead she said it had been directly contacting retired officers whose details were already on its own database.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

Meanwhile, G4S has confirmed all security personnel working at the Games are fluent English speakers.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Buckles said he was "pretty sure" the staff could speak English well "but I cannot say categorically as I sit here today".

The company has agreed to pay for the deployment of 3,500 extra military personnel, to plug the gap in security staff.

Mr Buckles added: "We are very, very grateful to the military for providing this support. To the individuals we are grateful that they are giving up time with family to come and help us.

"Together we will provide a safe and secure Games."


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  • Comment number 1033.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1032.

    he said he has problems finding a work force hows this possible when there is a record number of unemployed these days. how many MOD staff have been laid off over the last few yrs wouldn't they make perfect recruits.and at the price they charged i saw £240 m. they should have to pay money back

  • rate this

    Comment number 1031.

    1022. Golgotha
    The only way you can lose you job is if you're caught (note the word caught) doing something you shouldn't be by someone important e.g. the client, a member of public, et cetra.
    How about the G4S guards that collect money? They could now lose customers to Post Office CIT & others as a result which might place their jobs at risk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1030.

    14th July 2012
    It's shocking so many on here having a go at a company that CREATES jobs and wealth in this country!!


    Yes, that's right. A company that recieves (majority) public money & is, despite the incompetence & greed, somehow wealth-creating!

    Whereas, if hard-working nurses & policemen, etc. are paid directly by government they're a burden on tax-payers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1029.

    Lines need to be drawn in the sand, Security should be left to Police and Armed forces, not profiteering privatiation 'partners' doing the usual funny handshakes.

    May bleats not knowing just doesn't cut the mustard. Its her job to know these things rather than being too busy at parties or figuring out how to stick it up the police or the armed forces while G4S pals mess the bed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1028.

    Yes we need such people - we just have never yet had them.
    Do people change when they move back and forth between sectors
    a la Jekyll and Hyde?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1027.

    Please do not tar all the people in the public sector with the same brush. In any walk of life their are people of all spectrums.
    My problem with Britain today is the people on the whole are very aparthetic, people do not seem to realise that rights are being taken away from them that will affect their childrens prospects. All we should do is fight for our rights and responisbilities

  • rate this

    Comment number 1026.

    I don't think people really understand just how difficult a task G4S have undertaken. Its not like you can just pluck 10,000 security staff from thin air who will be trained, security screened and available for the six weeks of olympic and para activity. The pay is £8.30 an hour, not minimum wage but not exactly the kind of money that will bring willing participants out of the woodwork.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1025.

    A little gentle reminder about those of you criticising the NHS IT project as an example of public sector failure in citing examples of public vs private sector efficiency ... much of the work for the National IT project was in fact contracted out to private tenders (like BT and CSC) so it is in accurate to make these statements.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1024.

    A bit of a bargain for the taxpayer...

    With original Olympic Security measures estimated at £86 Million,
    Security estimates have rocketed from £282million to £553million [Source Margaret Hodge MP].

    but because of ineptitude we MIGHT get back £15 - £20 Million.

    That is not really "value from outlay" is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1023.

    Being educated and being intelligent don't always go hand in hand. I have seen managers from university promoted just to get them out the way, when someone who knew everything about the job got overlooked because he was too valuable to the department.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1022.


    Yes, an unfortunate state of affairs, but don't worry about the little man, no really, no one ever loses their job in Security. The only way you can lose you job is if you're caught (note the word caught) doing something you shouldn't be by someone important e.g. the client, a member of public, et cetra.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1021.

    @554 I can understand what you are trying to get at, sadly university educated ‘talent’ often have a lack of work experience. They tend to think in a very square non flexible way. While it is, at best, very efficient it is often very cold with a total lack of respect for the receiving party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1020.

    Anton Ferdinand. If you were a nurse on a tiny salery compared to yours you would be abused every day no matter what colour you are or where you come from. My advice to you is ' grow up and get a grip'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1019.

    This blame-game happened in the 70's - remember? - Back then it was all 'LETS ALL BLAME THE UNIONS' -
    Yes Frances Maude has evidently failed to cotton onto this unfortunately, and of course being an ex bank board member he's disinclined to recognise the fact that the banks are indeed behaving like an out of control union blackmailing the country and demanding subsidies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1018.

    "1014. budgood
    It shows why we need public sector workers that have loyalty & respect for their purpose."

    Never worked in the public sector have you Mr Budgood??
    Yes we need such people - we just have never yet had them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1017.

    The mans statement says it all really.

    Looks like he did not know what security was is or should be.

    Perhaps he needs a different outlook.... one looking for a new job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1016.

    It is quite disgusting to know that neither the Home Office nor G4S knew they were heading for disaster. Nick Buckles was asleep at the wheel and Teresa May was sleeping in the passenger seat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1015.

    I work in a big company. the thought that the senior managers were not aware of problems in a £280m contract is inconceivable. the project would have clearly been TOP PRIORITY due to it's national media exposure and income generation. he'd have been all over it. Nick Buckles makes circa £3.8 MILLION pounds a year. come on.Strategy - leave it to the last minute so government must step in to cover

  • rate this

    Comment number 1014.

    I've been doing some research on G4S from watching videos on line. Its really worth doing to get an idea of how extensively this corporation has infiltrated every aspect of civil society. Watching their promo videos they look like spoofs from a Robocop film. They seem to be really a very nasty organisation. It shows why we need public sector workers that have loyalty & respect for their purpose.


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