A disgruntled resident called the chief executive 20 times in one hour one and another annoyed resident has sent 150 emails in twelve months to staff at Calderdale Council.
The Council will look to introduce a new policy to deal with complainants who detract resources from serious issues, through their unreasonable demands of the Council and whose behaviour takes up a disproportionate amount of officer and Member resource.
In a report by Robin Tuddenham, the Council’s Director of Communities and Service Support, he outlined the difficulties in dealing with complainants. Examples included:
A complainant ringing the Chief Executive over 20 times within the space of an hour and putting the phone down before her PA can answer.
A complainant emailing multiple officers and Members regarding the same issues and refusing to accept the Councils position with regard to these issues.
A complainant using rude and aggressive language in emails and over the telephone with officers.
“Whilst to some extent the Complaints Team accepts that complainants may be very unhappy and sometimes angry about the service they have received from the Council, what all these complainants have in common is the excessive contact they make with the Council,” said Mr Tuddenham.
“In order to deal with this excessive contact effectively, the worst cases are allocated a single point of contact within the Council, this is currently the Customer Access Manager.
“In the last 12 months, one complainant has sent over 150 emails. The issues they have raised have all been responded to previously, but they persists in contacting the Council.”
The draft Vexatious Complainant policy recognises that whilst the Council will continue to respond openly and transparently to complaints and concerns, it has a clear set of values and will not tolerate unreasonable or abusive behaviour towards its staff.
Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Business Change and Customer Service, Councillor Lisa Lambert, said: “Whilst we always encourage feedback from residents, we also have to ensure that our staff are protected from the unreasonable behaviour of a very small number of complainants to the Council.
“There are examples of staff being threatened with individual legal action, abused by foul language, personal threats and insults, or harassed with repeated contact when a complaint has already been responded to.
“In these cases it’s important that we have a policy in place to appropriately and proportionately take action to manage contact.
“Restrictions on interaction would only be used as a very last resort, and as always, we encourage customers to get in touch with their feedback about our services.”