A NATIONWIDE shortage of bouncers and security staff has affected businesses in the Black Country.

The lack of security personnel comes at a time when hospitality businesses are being hit by rising costs alongside trying to recover from premises being forced to close during the pandemic.

Pete Jordan, director of Sandwell’s MADE Festival, said because of security shortages and a historic rise in coronavirus cases, he could only allow 15,000 people to attend, rather than the usual 30,000.

He said: “We had to open up a very deep black book of contacts in the industry to make sure security was filled.

“We had people in from Wales and Scotland to cover. We had to give people two days work to cover the one day festival to make it worth their while. But in all honesty that’s not an efficient way to do it.

“You can’t open a festival unless you’ve got the level of security provision which you’ve agreed to in your safety manuals.”

Mr Jordan also organises events across Digbeth. He argues the lack of experienced security staff is a problem for many event companies.

“You can imagine, an event with around 15,000 people at quite a technical event, means  experienced staff is all that more important. We couldn’t have staff there who were at MADE festival for the first time. The security and safety of people is paramount.”

Hospitality businesses have experienced staff shortages for the past few months since lockdown restrictions were eased, with security vacancies being the latest problem.

This comes after difficulty retaining bar staff, chefs and other kitchen workers.

Other parts of the economy have also been hit by lack of staff, particularly the food industry, and logistics, including warehouse workers and HGV drivers.

Many security workers left their jobs during the pandemic as nightclubs and late-night venues were closed, with many finding jobs elsewhere with more suitable hours.

The sector has also been hit by EU staff leaving the UK during the past 18 months as a result of Brexit or pandemic restrictions.

For Mr Jordan, he feels security staff have been taken for ‘granted’, and said the issue of staff shortages in his sector was ‘well known’ before the pandemic.

He said: “It’s a hard job. Dealing with people can be difficult, and security guards are representative of the first point of contact when people arrive at your venue or at your festival site.

“I think sometimes security guards are often a forgotten part of it, but at the same time if you understand how the industry works, they’re part of an ecosystem and having respect for them is so important.”

The NTIA estimates that almost 90,000 jobs have been lost in the UK’s night-time cultural economy since the pandemic began, in a sector which was valued at being worth £36bn, or 1.6 per cent of GDP, in 2019.

The tax’s rate for pubs, restaurants, holiday accommodation and admission to certain attractions was temporarily cut to 5 per cent in 2020, but raised to 12.5 per cent at the start of October, and is due to return to the pre-pandemic 20 per cent level next April.

About one in five night-time and hospitality businesses had to close last month or operate on reduced hours as a result of a shortage of security staff, according to trade body the Night Time Industries Association.

Michael Kill, chief executive officer of the Night Time Industries Association, said the government needs to step in to change how security licences are processed.

Since April this year, training to obtain a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence takes approximately 52 hours – or seven days without self study.

Mr Kill believes that this has stopped a lot of people from training as the extended hours are too long.

He said: “Many of the roles that people take up are normally secondary jobs, so they’re working in the week and they’re topping up their money on the weekend.

“So anyone who has got to do seven days worth of training for a part-time job may not see it as worth it. You’re already at a deficit because many people  can’t take that time off, or if they do take the time off, it’s eating up their holiday where they can relax.”

He also pointed out that unregulated security operators have emerged since the lockdown working under the radar and avoiding paying insurance and tax.

“You’ve got a battle between the professional companies that are doing it the right way in mind with the regulator. And then you’ve got the challenge of the ad hoc businesses that sort of come and go in the night, which are paying cash in hand.

“Some of these companies are not even insured, nevermind paying a pension and a decent wage.”

Mr Kill says government intervention is needed to retain security staff and prevent shortages becoming a “threat to public safety”.

He said: “The government could come in and then change the private security act so it’s a requirement for security companies to be registered.

“It would stop these ad hoc businesses, and then everyone would know who’s operating as a security company, what the pay structure would be, what the standards would be, so that everyone can be put to ease.”