Clampdown by Fenland Council who say staff need protection from 'unacceptable or inappropriate' behaviour by a handful of complainants

PUBLISHED: 15:07 05 September 2019

Whittlesey councillor David Mason who chairs the staff committee of Fenland Council that is overseeing a new policy on complainanants who act unreasonably. Picture; WHITTLESEY TOWN COUNCIL

Whittlesey councillor David Mason who chairs the staff committee of Fenland Council that is overseeing a new policy on complainanants who act unreasonably. Picture; WHITTLESEY TOWN COUNCIL

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Tough restrictions on persistent complainants to Fenland Council will be introduced to clamp down on those whose behaviour is deemed "unacceptable or inappropriate".

The council's staff committee is being invited to update the complaints system in the light of complainants who are taking up "significant and disproportionate" amounts of officer time.

The council says it is not trying to limit the contact that complainants can have but a policy is needed to identify and manage "unreasonable and/or persistent complainers".

In a minority of cases, the council says customers pursue their complaints in a way that is unacceptable or inappropriate.

"We have a zero tolerance approach to aggressive and abusive behaviour," says the council.

"Whilst we understand a complainant may be frustrated by the circumstances surrounding their complaint, we expect them to remain calm and work with us so that their complaint is quickly and satisfactorily resolved."

The council says: "Unreasonably persistent, vexatious and abusive complainants hinder our consideration of their complaints".

But the council says it will make reasonable allowance for those acting out of character during times of stress, anxiety or distress.

"However, this does not mean unreasonable, abusive or vexatious behaviour will be tolerated," says the council.

Type of behaviour identified as unacceptable include:

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- Adopting a 'scatter gun' approach by pursuing parallel complaints on the same or very similar issues

- Submitting repeat complaints with minor additions/variations and insisting they are treated as 'new' and/or separate complaints

- Making excessive demands on the time and resources of staff.

- Refusing to co-operate with the complaints investigation process

- Refusing to accept that certain issues are not within the scope of the complaints procedure.

- Insisting on the complaint being dealt with in ways that are incompatible with the complaints procedure

- Refusing to accept the decision made by the council, Government organisation, or court: repeatedly arguing points with no new material evidence

- Introducing trivial or irrelevant new information at a later stage

The council says that how they deal with unacceptable behaviour "will be proportionate to the type of behaviour and circumstances".

One proposal will be to limit the number of times a complainant can contact staff and the duration of visits.

The council says every aspect of its complaints process will be examined in the case of each complainant and only senior managers will be able to apply it.

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