Cost concerns over venue security fee plans in the wake of Manchester bombing

Industry leaders have warned that plans to be legally required to protect venues in the wake of the Manchester Arena terror attack could pose challenges for small businesses.

The government is developing plans for so-called Protect Duty in the wake of the May 2017 atrocities in which 22 people were killed as they exited an Ariana Grande concert.

The Home Office said the proposed legislation would be introduced to parliament “at the earliest opportunity”, which would establish a legal duty to prepare for a terrorist attack in certain public places. Currently, there is no need to employ security measures in most places.

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Stockport’s Martin Hett was among 22 people killed in the Manchester Arena terror attack (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

A recurring theme in response to a consultation on the plans is “concern that the duty could negatively impact organizations financially,” according to documents published on Monday.

Small businesses, charities, voluntary organizations and places of worship were considered “most at risk” and “possible closure of organizations due to additional costs”, and increased insurance costs, said a summary of the responses.

Implications for the police were also raised as a result of the enforcement measures.

Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kiel said the role of protecting employees and customers was taken “extremely seriously”, but warned that “there will be challenges for small businesses, which will require a considerable level of support from the government”. and as local authorities, they assess the risk and formulate an action plan accordingly.”

He added: “While we focus on public safety, there are some concerns from the sector, particularly small independent businesses, on the cost of implementing measures, proportionately against risk, but broader industry concerns, particularly Shortage of fully licensed security personnel, which will be a fundamental requirement as we enter the busy period of 2022.

“It is extremely important that government, police and local officials work closely with businesses through this process, but also consider some of the inherent challenges from the pandemic.”

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Feigen Murray has campaigned for stronger safety rules (Family Handout / PA)

According to a consultation document published last year, the duty could be applied to places with a capacity of 100 or more people and organizations with 250 or more employees.

The rules can be enforced in public places such as sports stadiums, tourist attractions or shopping centers, large organizations such as retail or entertainment chains, and open spaces such as parks and beaches.

Feigen Murray, the mother of 29-year-old Manchester Arena victim Martin Heitt, has campaigned for the introduction of new rules, dubbed Martin’s Law, which include calls for venues and local authorities to prepare an action plan for such attacks. .

She told the PA news agency that the progress made with the plans was a “huge milestone,” but that the government needed to “carefully consider” the views of the industry and any to which the law would apply, adding: ” If it’s not right, and to the satisfaction of the stakeholders, it won’t work anyway. And the law will eventually become a failed law.”

She suggested that one option would be for venues to raise the necessary funds through a “ringfenced” security levy, adding a small additional fee to its prices, such as 50p per ticket.

It would be surprising if the new laws could be passed by the time the fifth anniversary of the attack in May, Ms Murray said, but she acknowledged that the process could take “a very long time”.

According to the findings of the consultation, seven out of 10 of 2,755 respondents agreed that publicly accessible places should take measures to protect people from attacks, including ensuring that staff are properly trained went.

The Home Office said there was an understanding that the measures should be commensurate with the size of the site, with those that are larger, more weighted.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “We will never allow terrorists to restrict our freedom and way of life, which is why we are committed to bringing in legislation this year that will strike the right balance between public safety, will not put an excessive burden on businesses.”