Home Office warned over G4S staffing

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Media captionDavid Cameron: ''Contracts that are not fulfilled will have... pretty tough financial consequences''

The Home Office was told of a "possible temporary shortfall" in G4S security guards for the Olympics on 27 June, the home secretary has said.

Theresa May had earlier told MPs the government only learnt last Wednesday G4S could not fully meet its contract.

This comes as Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced 1,200 troops were on stand-by, in addition to 3,500 troops recently drafted in.

G4S has released a statement saying it is making "good progress".

A spokesman said there were daily increases in the number of people working at Olympics venue and people who had completed training and accreditation.

"We are working very closely with Locog, the military, police and government and we expect to continue to build on the progress we have made in the past few days," he said.

Mrs May said there was a Home Office meeting with G4S and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog) on 27 June, at which the security firm admitted "experiencing scheduling problems" which could see a shortfall of "significantly less than 1,000" guards.

Staff shortfall

"G4S stated that the shortfall was mainly due to the failure to take account of the fact that large parts of their workforce would be unable to begin work before July 27."

But she said G4S had been "unable to specify the size of the shortfall", and it was not until Wednesday 11 July the company said it would not meet its workforce target.

Permission to put a small number of troops on 24 hours' notice had been sought the day after the Home Office meeting in June, Mrs May added.

She revealed the details in a letter to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee chairman, Keith Vaz.

In response Mr Vaz said: "I am most surprised that G4S have found themselves in this position considering that four separate reports into Olympics security were conducted in the last 12 months."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Mrs May had given the impression she had only known about the problems on 11 July.

"Why has Theresa May waited until now to admit the Home Office in fact were warned two weeks earlier?" she asked.

"She needs to explain urgently how she justifies having given Parliament and the public such a selective account, and why the Home Office were so slow to respond."

Two days' notice

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the troops on stand-by had had their notice to move cut from 7 days to 48 hours.

"They will remain in their current locations but can be called on if we need them during the coming weeks. We hope that will not be necessary but this is a sensible precaution," he said.

He said the security guard problems should be put in context.

"It's been an encouraging first week and it's very important that people understand that of course you're going to have a few hitches on a project of this scale, but actually things have gone pretty smoothly and the athletes are getting a fantastic welcome."

Rehearsals for the opening ceremony are under way and 5,100 athletes and officials have arrived at the Games.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee has separately urged ministers to "get a grip" on G4S to ensure a smooth Games in its report.

Its chairwoman Margaret Hodge criticised G4S and Locog, saying: "In evidence to us before Christmas, all those concerned gave assurances that the contract could be met despite more than doubling the number of guards before the ink was dry on the original contract.

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Media captionMargaret Hodge MP wants "true transparency" from G4S

"Now troops are having to be drafted in. The Home Office needs to get a grip on Locog and G4S urgently."

On Tuesday, G4S chief executive Nick Buckles admitted the debacle was a "humiliating shambles for the company".

The 3,500 troops drafted in last week are in addition to 13,500 military personnel already involved in Games security.

Prime Minister David Cameron said G4S could be made to return some of the money it had been paid.

"If a company doesn't fulfil its contract, then that company should be got after for that money," he told the BBC on a visit to Afghanistan.

It has been revealed the organisers of London 2012 encouraged G4S to keep wages for security staff as low as possible.

Security guards have been offered £8.50 an hour to work at the Olympic venues - below the market rate of about £10 an hour.

And a G4S manager on duty at the Olympic rowing lake in Berkshire has told the BBC security is "a shambles".

He said radios do not work, guards have to use their own mobiles and there are not enough trained CCTV operators.

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