THE trebling in the security budget for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 to £90 million is an increase that requires explanation.
High security costs are an inevitable part of any high-profile, multi-national event, even one based on friendship between nations.
That was accepted from the time Glasgow won the competition to host the games in 2007 and must have been an integral part of the planning and costing process. A review by Stephen House, Chief Constable of the new Police Service of Scotland, has found the £27.2 m security budget woefully inadequate. The extra costs are required for additional CCTV, perimeter fencing, and security checking equipment, while venues will be secured for longer than originally planned to allow for building work.
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It appears, however, that lessons have been learned from the failure of G4S to supply the 10,400 staff required for the Olympic Games in London which meant the army had to be drafted in drafted in to fill the gaps at the last minute.
G4S withdrew from the competition to provide security to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and, following discussions between the Metropolitan Police and Strathclyde Police, the private security provision has been divided into multiple contracts. Mr House's review of security is to be welcomed as evidence of thorough preparation for the biggest event ever staged in Glasgow. High-level security that is effective without being over-obtrusive will be as essential a part of a successful games as the state-of-the-art new Emirates Arena and Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.
But the sudden increase in the cost of security betrays a lack of rigour and professionalism in the period before the review was undertaken. Mr House now has responsibility for the overall safety and security of the games. In the next 18 months he must ensure security planning and provision are resilient enough to meet all the requirements and challenges.
The costs of major public contracts have an unhealthy habit of spiralling out of control. With events as large as the Commonwealth Games, it is essential to prepare and provide for unexpected costs. Having already raided the contingency fund to the tune of £25.1m, however, a tight grip must now be kept on other costs, particularly for infrastructure projects which should not expect bail-outs for costing failures.
At a time of unprecedented cuts to public services, it is worrying that the bulk of the additional costs, £37.7 million, is to be met from the general Scottish Government budget in 2014-15. The continuing feel-good factor from the London Olympics is a positive pointer to the potential of the Commonwealth Games to inspire Scots, and Glaswegians in particular, to take part in sport and take pride in their athletes, their country and their city. Staging a successful games cannot happen without security being properly planned and funded. It is a pity this aspect of the games has had a stuttering start.