Lisa Dixon told the council’s Standards Committee today (18 December) that “six or seven” individuals currently find themselves on the council’s list of people deemed to be vexatious.
She told the committee that emails from these people were diverted before they reach their intended target, including councillors, but that if the person had a genuine issue or complaint it was then forwarded on.
Mrs Dixon was responding to a question by committee member Cllr Tony Randerson (Lab) during a discussion on the council’s Regulations of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) policy.
Cllr Randerson pointed out the policy gave the council powers to monitor emails of “employees” of the authority but he questioned if this also covered councillors.
He said: “The policy makes no mention of granting any authority the powers to look into a member’s private emails from constituents.”
Mrs Dixon said the council’s policy “is lawful and robust” and that all councillors sign up to an email policy when they are elected that grants the council powers to monitor emails.
She added: “The council has a vexatious complainants policy agreed by the full council and what that says is where complainants are using the email system to pass defamatory or vexatious complaints then the council will take steps.”
People the council deems to be vexatious are warned that they could find their emails blocked if they persist with their actions. If they do not cease the council then takes action. The emails remain monitored in case the person has another legitimate complaint that needs to be dealt with by the authority.
Mrs Dixon added: “If you had read some of the emails that we have acted upon [and] the language that is used and the abuse our officers get then, well, we have a duty to protect our staff from the harm that is being caused by these people.
“I’ve had officers in tears in my office due to the emails they have been getting from some of these people.
“To put it in context I think there is six or seven currently declared [as vexatious]. There are about 110,000 people in this borough. So that’s the proportion we are dealing with.”