Scarborough Council has admitted it does filter messages sent to councillors and staff - in line with a policy adopted in 2009.
Following on from a Private Eye story the authority says that communications from ‘unreasonably persistent’ and ‘unreasonable complaints' is intercepted before it gets to elected members or employees.
In a statement, a Scarborough Council spokesman stated: “The council has in place a policy for dealing with ‘unreasonably persistent’ and ‘unreasonable’ complaint behaviour, which can be accessed on the council’s website.
“Such behaviour is dealt with by a simple, overt, and reasonable practice, which is in operation throughout the public sector for the protection of not only staff and members (councillors), but also to protect limited resources.
“The policy states that ‘…the council does not expect its staff or members to tolerate unacceptable behaviour by complainants or any customer’. It sets out examples of complaint and communication behaviour that may be considered to be unreasonable.
“Where an individual or third party is acting in an unreasonable manner they are informed that this is the case, with an explanation as to why their behaviour is considered unacceptable. They are told that should they continue to act in an unreasonable manner, their access to officers and members will be restricted, and that this includes the redirection to a central mailbox of any emails they send to officers or members. This is done in an open and transparent manner.
“Should the individual or third party fail to moderate their behaviour, the matter is referred to the council’s Director’s Team to consider whether the individual or third party should now be declared as unreasonable under the terms of the policy. If this occurs, then the measures set out and explained in the warning email are put in place.
“Of course there may be emails sent from such complainants that the council needs to address as part of its range of statutory duties. This is why they are redirected to the unreasonable complainants’ mailbox rather than be deleted or rejected by the system. Access to this mailbox is restricted to three senior council officers, so that any emails which need to be addressed as part of the council’s statutory duties are forwarded appropriately.
“The amount of people that are subject to email re-direction at any one time is in single figures.
“At no point are these emails accessed via logging into a councillor’s or an officer’s email account. The entire process is carried out in an overt manner, with the complainant being properly advised of the measures and why they are being invoked.
“Failure to deal with unreasonable behaviour of this type would result in the council failing to comply with legal duties to protect officers and members. It would also impact upon the use of council resources and hinder the council’s ability to correspond with its customers and deliver its services.”
The issue was raised after two councillors found they did not receive an email from a member of the public who had been placed into the 'unreasonable' filter.