People who abuse Chichester District Council staff could be blacklisted
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During a meeting of the standards committee, monitoring officer Nicholas Bennett shared details of a new policy aimed at dealing with unreasonable complaints and the poor behaviour of those making them.
Among recent complaints was one person who sent 62 emails about a ‘relatively minor’ issue, becoming obsessive, aggressive and rude.
Another made repeated complaints about an Arun District Council issue, while an injunction was taken out against a third who would not stop contacting one member of staff.
Most worrying were the five cases in the past year which saw aggression either threatened or used against staff.
Mr Bennett said: “Most people – 99.9 per cent of people – who get in touch with this council act reasonably, are thoughtful, are always comfortable talking to officers in a way which is appropriate, which they would expect to receive themselves if they were providing a service to somebody else.
“There are many very challenging jobs in this council and, unfortunately, it does happen that there are some people – that 0.1 per cent – who are unreasonable.
“They act in a way which causes it to be really difficult for the council to help them – or who make officers’ lives very unpleasant.”
While recognising that the cases in which people acted poorly were low, Mr Bennett said they were increasing.
If accepted, the draft policy would allow the council to: limit the number of phone calls staff would accept from someone making unreasonable complaints, only allow them to contact a named officer, and only allow them to contact the council in one specific form – such as by letter.
And the council could refuse to deal with that person at all if the matter about which they were complaining had already been addressed.
Mr Bennett said: “What this is is a tool that can be used in order to manage the behaviour in an appropriate way.
“To be able to use the restrictions to address behaviour which is causing real harm to officers.”
As well as protecting officers from harm – both physical and mental – the policy aims to ensure that complaints are dealt with fairly and resources are not being applied disproportionately to those who are difficult and shout the loudest.
The draft policy will be recommended to the full council for adoption.