Complainant cost council ‘thousands’

The Boston Borough Council building.
The Boston Borough Council building.

A serial complainer has ‘cost the council thousands’ in staff resources and time, it has been revealed.

This year alone, the individual has reportedly sent 41 emails, made four complaints, put forward two enquiries and made eight Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

The point was made during a meeting to discuss how to effectively deal with ‘resource hungry’ customers.

The figures were quoted by Finance Portfolio holder Coun Aaron Spencer during a meeting of Boston Borough Council’s Corporate and Community Committee discussing a new ‘Persistent and Vexatious Customer Policy’.

The document aims to cement guidelines already in place into the council’s constitution, giving it the tools needed to deal with constituents who ‘pursue complaints in a way that is unreasonable’.

Coun Spencer told the committee that between 2009-2014 the individual had made 15 recorded complaints and 17 Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests.

He said: “That individual has cost this council thousands. That’s important and why we need to seek to adopt this policy.” He said that the new document should aim ‘not to compromise the integrity of the council’.

The policy would deal with customers who make excessive demands on the time and resources of officers, are abusive to offices or refuse to accept a decision even after repeatedly arguing the point.

Consideration could be given to the amount of information, the nature and scale of service and the number of approaches and could include demanding responses in an ‘unreasonable’ timescale, insisting on seeing or speaking to a particular member or officers or continually making phone calls - particularly to a variety of officers.

The new policy sets out ways the council can deal with these people, including restricting contact to telephone, fax, letter or a combination of those, putting their name on a ‘no personal contact’ list and restricting them to speaking to one point of contact.

Report author Michelle Sacks said: “This would give us the tools within the constitution to deal with these customers effectively.

“It would give us the framework to say ‘this is our adopted policy that members of our staff have to follow and it is the way we deal with our complaints’.

“The benefits of having a policy like this will be not to reduce the number of enquiries but to reduce the impact on resources of dealing with the individual.”

She said that persistent customers at the moment can result in duplication and even triplication of work as individuals sometimes contact several people ‘with the same requests’.

She explained: “This is to do with how we manage customers who effectively become resource hungry.

“The outline concern is that we try to treat everybody equally, but the irony is that people who are persistent can become a priority person.”

She added: “This is about treating all our customers equally and fairly and identifying our customers which fall into ‘persistent and vexatious’.”

Councillors voted unanimously to recommend the policy went to cabinet for approval.