Security guard budget restored

PLANS to permanently restore a security guard at a council headquarters have been backed by councillors.

Hartlepool Borough Council looks set to reinstate the £19,000 security guard budget after reviewing arrangements at the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road.

Money had been set aside to pay for the cover in the foyer area as part of the council’s contract with a security firm.

But it was axed from this year’s budget and afterconcerns were raised by trade unions and council workers there has been security guard cover in the reception since April.

The cover has been paid for using money from different council departments. But officers said it could not continue without a dedicated budget.

Cabinet members met to discuss the security arrangements after a risk assessment was carried out.

A report to councillors said the building security is “good”, but the main risk centres on Hartlepool Connect, which was established in 2007.

Hartlepool Connect, which deals with more than 170,000 visitors a year, is the first point of contact for all visitors and staff deal with a range of inquiries.

A security guard is based in the reception area to “avoid, defuse or respond” to aggressive behaviour and to make sure those banned from the building do not enter.

Labour councillor Robbie Payne, finance and procurement portfolio holder, said: “The security guard was here long before Hartlepool Connect and that was because there were incidents in the reception.

“Without the security guard you will get people coming back in.

“He was brought in for a specific reason and that was because of threats to staff.”

The report to cabinet said: “A security guard has been provided to the civic centre for a substantial period of time.

“Unfortunately limited records have been maintained of the incidents to which a security guard has responded.

“Equally it is not possible to quantify how many incidents may have been averted by the presence of a security guard.”

But councillors say that there is a need for a security presence.

Labour councillor Peter Jackson, regeneration and economic development and skills portfolio holder, said: “I am in favour of returning the security guard budget.

“Unless staff are behind glass then we need a security guard there.”

Labour group leader Chris Simmons, member for children’s services, added: “We can’t afford not to have somebody there to ensure their safety.

“It is not a risk that we should be taking.”

Mayor Stuart Drummond said the proposal to reinstate the £19,000 budget will be included in the budget process, which is subject to consultation.

All council-owned buildings undergo regular health and safety inspections.