Revealed: How local democracy is policed by private security companies

In March, local London newspaper Ham & High reported that the Tory-run Barnet Council were paying a private security company to secretly film residents at open meetings.

MetPro private security: paid by Barnet Council to spy on residents in public meetings

The farcical “MetPro Rapid Response Ltd.”, which described itself as an “alternative to 999”, were paid almost £1m over two-and-a-quarter years before they went bust this year.

Now, documents uncovered by accessdocs.wordpress.com have revealed how private security firms are regularly used by other councils across England and Wales to “control the public”.

In one case, Portsmouth Council called in a private security company to a total of 31 public meetings between 2009-2010. They explained it was because “Protesting and placards etc are not allowed at public meetings”.

Elsewhere, Shepway Council paid out £840 for a firm to police a single public meeting about the expansion of Lydd Airport. The council stated: “This company was hired to control the public outside the building”.

The full number of councils using private security companies in public open meetings is hard to pinpoint exactly as many councils have ongoing security contracts, regardless of specific meetings or events. However, other councils which appear to have paid for meetings to be policed include Basildon, Bassetlaw, Craven District, Oxfordshire, Sheffield, Somerset, Surrey Heath and Crawley Council who paid a security company £2,475 for a single “Planning Development Control” meeting last year.

UPDATE:  It has been pointed out, quite rightly, that the story of MetPro in Barnet was almost entirely exposed by bloggers, rather than the local paper, Ham & High. This blog by former Guardian journalist David Henckle seems to be one of the best and has lots more info on the subject (and other stories) – http://davidhencke.wordpress.com/ . Have a look. And this one – http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.com/

NB: This post has been subsequently published on the Liberal Conspiracy website here.

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3 Responses to Revealed: How local democracy is policed by private security companies

  1. Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog says:

    interesting, but I must point out that the Barnet/Metpro story was actually discovered almost entirely investigated only by the hard slog of bloggers in Barnet.

  2. Pingback: Private police at public meetings

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