Scarborough Council acts to deal with people who abuse and harass its staff

Scarborough Council has tightened up its policies around how it deals with people who abuse and harass its staff.

Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 9:58 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 10:01 am
Scarborough Town Hall

The borough authority’s full council yesterday approved amendments to what is now called the council’s “Unreasonably Persistent Complainants and Unacceptable Behaviour” policy.

A report into the policy, which has operated since 2009, found that council staff as well as being subjected to racist and homophobic abuse were also the target of false accusations.

The policy also covers people who make multiple Freedom of Information (FOI) requests which the council claims lead to it getting “considerable volumes” of correspondence from just a handful of people.

The controversial element of the policy is the filtering of emails from those who get designated as being unreasonable under the policy.

In the “single point contact” system, emails from flagged addresses go to a single mailbox where they are checked for their content by a council employee before being forwarded on to the intended recipient.

The council has now completed a review of the policy having sought information from 200 other local authorities and used the responses from 100 of them to measure against its policy.

The report states that “most authorities operate a single point of contact system” and, like Scarborough, the policy is based on one developed by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The report adds: “At the current time, eight individuals within Scarborough borough are designated under the policy.

“Of these, two are designated for sending emails to staff which are considered to be racist, homophobic, abusive, and/or offensive emails.

“Six individuals are designated due to their persistent behaviour in making unsupported allegations against council officers and members, refusing to accept the outcome of complaints, including independent assessments by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO), decisions made through court proceedings, etc.

“It should be noted that individuals do have a right to appeal to the LGSCO against the designation, but often do not take up the opportunity to do so.”

The report adds that the “unsupported” allegations made by the individuals are often then reproduced online.

Following the review, a number of changes are proposed to the policy, including changing its name to make it clear what behaviour is included and ensuring that every person who gets a warning will be sent a letter and copy of the policy.

A detailed report will also be submitted annually to the authority’s Audit Committee and the policy will more clearly reflect what happens to emails that are sent to the single point of contact.

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