Agenda item

Unreasonably Persistent Complaints and Customer Behaviour and Vexatious Requests (Agenda item 15)

Report of Councillor Mark Robinson, Executive Member for Governance.


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.


The 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 contacts.



·         To approve the draft Policy for dealing with Unreasonably Persistent Complaints, Customer Behaviour and Vexatious Requests.


·         To approve the draft Policy subject to amendments.


·         Not to adopt a Policy and Procedures.  This option is not recommended as such issues will have to be dealt with in an ad-hoc manner.


RESOLVED that the proposed Policy at Appendix 1 of the report be approved; subject to:


1)    the flowchart being amended as requested, to include the addition of an arrow between the ‘review’ box and the ‘discontinue action’ box as agreed; and


2)    the Policy being circulated to all Town and Parish Councils at the forthcoming Town & Parish Forum (date tbc).



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