Unreasonably Persistent Complaints and Customer Behaviour and Vexatious Requests
Meeting: 17/10/2017 - Cabinet (Item 109)
Report of Councillor Mark Robinson, Executive Member for Governance.
- Appendix 1 for Unreasonably Persistent Complaints and Customer Behaviour and Vexatious Requests, item 109 PDF 156 KB
- Appendix 2 for Unreasonably Persistent Complaints and Customer Behaviour and Vexatious Requests, item 109 PDF 23 KB
The Executive Member for Governance presented the report which asked Members to consider the draft Policy for dealing with unreasonably persistent complaints, customer behaviour and vexatious requests.
Breckland Council did not have an up-to-date Policy and it was important to have a framework to deal with such issues. The Policy and flowchart that had been appended to the report would be circulated to all Town & Parish Councils via the Town & Parish Council Forum as recommended by the Overview & Scrutiny Commission.
The Executive Member for Place (Health Lead) wanted to know who defined ‘unreasonable’. Members were informed that the Policy itself set out the reasons and the context and when behaviour would be considered ‘unreasonable’. Members were assured that this Policy would not prevent the Council’s customers from being robust and it was anticipated that the Policy would be used infrequently. Any such issues would then be reported to the Overview & Scrutiny Commission on an annual basis.
The Executive Director of Place advised that this Policy was not about stopping complaints but was a formal process that dealt with unreasonable complainants that continued to engage with the Council. He was aware of very few cases that fell under this category but each had generated an enormous amount of work for the Officers involved and a mechanism was needed to address these rare occurrences.
The Legal Manager had been asked to gather some information on such matters and had managed to find two cases from Breckland Council and two from South Holland District Counci.
The Executive Member for People & Information drew attention to the flowchart on page 183 of the agenda pack and felt that there should be another arrow between the ‘review’ box and the ‘discontinue action’ box. This amendment was agreed.
Councillor Duigan felt that the area that received the most persistent complaints would be the Planning Department and asked if Capita would be included. Members were informed that any planning complaints would come through to Breckland Council as the Local Planning Authority. The Executive Director of Place explained that there was a specific process for dealing with planning challenges.
The Executive Member for Growth asked if this Policy could be reflected through the Parishes. Councillor Hollis agreed with this suggestion.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman recommends having a Policy to ensure that complaints and customers are dealt with in an open, fair and proportionate way. Having a Policy will help Officers to understand clearly what is expected of them, what options for action are available and who can authorise these actions. It can also be shared with customers and help manage their expectations and explains that certain behaviours should not be tolerated.
Council must always bear in mind its underlying commitment to
transparency and openness. The
guidance recommended that a customer should be given an opportunity
to moderate their behaviour and any actions should be proportionate
to the nature and frequency of the complainant’s current
· To approve the draft Policy for dealing ... view the full minutes text for item 109
Report of the Executive Manager for Governance.
- Appendix 1 for Unreasonably Persistent Complaints and Customer Behaviour and Vexatious Requests, item 79 PDF 122 KB
The Executive Member for Governance presented the report which asked Members to consider the draft Policy for dealing with unreasonably persistent complaints and customer behaviour and vexatious requests.
This was a new Policy for the Council.
The Legal Services Manager explained that the Policy applied to both Elected Members and staff. A flow chart would be prepared to support the Policy if approved.
Councillor Jermy was pleased with the report and asked if the flow chart had been prepared. The Legal Services Manager handed out a draft flow chart for Members to look at. He drew Members’ attention to section 4(e) of the Policy (appeals against decisions) and queried the job titles listed. Members were informed that the job titles would be amended accordingly.
In response to a suggestion by Councillor Jermy, it was proposed and seconded that such issues be reported to the Commission on an annual basis.
Councillor Brame congratulated the Officer concerned on how the Policy had been written and would be taking it to his Parish Council as all had to deal with similar problems.
The Chairman agreed and asked for the Policy to be emailed to all Parish Councils.
Councillor Nairn felt that ‘trolls’ on social media should be addressed. Members were informed that the wording could be amended to include reference to social media.
Councillor Dimoglou declared an interest in this item as he had been a victim of a vexatious complaint and felt that the Policy was too complex and was weighted far too much against the vexatious complainant. He pointed out that the Council’s current Policy required him to have contact with the person and he felt that this part should be removed. The Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Strategy, Governance & Transformation explained that the Council had to have a proper process in place to encompass all issues moving forward. The Chairman pointed out that this was an overarching Policy to protect the Council and the public.
The Executive Member for Growth suggested that this Policy be included on the agenda at the next Town & Parish Council Forum.
The Legal Services Manager responded to many questions in relation to freedom of information requests, legislation, civil matters and injunctions and it was noted that Freedom of Information had time constraints and if not responded to within the statutory time frame, the matter could be referred to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).
Members discussed the draft flow chart and the Executive Member for People & Information felt that there should be another arrow pointing back from the appeal to the decision.
Councillor Jermy asked if Standards and this Policy were two different areas. Members were informed that there was a paragraph included within the Standards Policy in relation to vexatious complaints.
RECOMMEND to Cabinet that the proposed Policy at Appendix A of the report be approved subject to the inclusion of the aforementioned amendments; and it was:
1) such complaints, vexatious requests etc be reported to the Overview & Scrutiny Commission on an ... view the full minutes text for item 79