Penarth Council is to consider new guidelines to deal with  “unreasonable” local residents

The Labour-controlled Penarth Town Council is considering new get-tough procedures for dealing with “a minority of people” who – it’s claimed – submit council staff to “verbal abuse” and “threatening behaviour”.

An internal  report by Town Clerk Emma Boylan says “It is unfortunate to report that of late council staff are having to deal with members of the public and customers of the council who approach staff in a less than professional and courteous manner”.

Penarth councillors will meet in committee tomorrow night to discuss the new policy document

Councillors meeting tomorrow night will consider a draft policy document which formally spells out  – to the residents of Penarth  – exactly how they must behave when engaging with council staff – and what the consequences will be if they fail to do so.

The document  “sets out what standards of behaviour are expected of customers and the general public when dealing with council staff”   – and exactly how local residents “will be dealt with if they do not adhere to this standard”.

On September 1st the Paget Rooms may have been the scene of the first action taken by council staff under Penarth Council’s  new draft “Unreasonable Behaviour” policy – although it has not yet been formally discussed by councillors.

The council report says “ A zero-tolerance approach to abusive behaviour will ensure that a level of safety is applied to the council staff and that the council – is protecting the well-being of its staff”  .

The report says “ It should be stressed that there are only a few people that bad behaviour relates to” and that “in general council staff have good relationships and strong rapport with the townspeople of Penarth”    .

The Town Clerk’s report  says On occasion it may be necessary to exclude a badly behaved member of the public from council venues and this decision is not taken lightly”.

Nicki Page attempted to pin up posters for her Penarth Pier Pavilion campaign on internal council notice boards

[ PDN Note:  The council is said to have banned at least one local resident – Nicki Page – from all council premises. As reported by PDN [ See], on September 1st, council staff summoned the South Wales Police to remove Ms Page from the Paget Rooms where she had bought a ticket and was attending a concert. Two police vans arrived at the scene.]

The report goes on to say ” Police support advises that this action should be taken and the council is well within its rights to do so

The report says “It may be the case on occasion that members of the public are not happy with the decisions taken by the Town Ccouncil but this should be confused with how members of the public then go on to deal with employees”.

The Policy Document to be discussed by Penarth Town Council’s policy committee tomorrow night

Appended to the Town Clerk’s report is a detailed and comprehensive 12-page Draft Policy Document entitled  “Policy on the Management of Unreasonable and Violent Customer Behaviour”   .

This lists –  in detail –  a total of 19  types of behaviour which the council defines as “unreasonable” including:-

  • Making excessive demands on the time and resources of staff by excessive and lengthy phone calls, emails and letters – or detailed letters every few days and expecting immediate responses
  • Repeated and excessive pursuit of a complaint or issue which appears to have no substance or is outside the remit of the council
  • Contact which may be amiable but which places heavy demands on staff time or may be very emotionally charged and distressing for all involved
  • Escalation of unacceptable abusive aggressive or threatening behaviour
  • Changing the basis of the complaints whilst under investigation
  • Denying or changing statements made at an earlier stage
  • Refusing to accept the decision Introducing irrelevant or trial issues
  • Providing misleading or false information or documents or adopting false identities
  • Refusing to accept the decision with no new evidence
  • Persistently approaching the council through different routes or getting others to do so about the same issue
  • Refusing to accept the council’s or Ombudsman’s decision

The Draft Policy Document notes that “Some customers that staff consider to be unreasonable may be behaving this way because of a specific circumstance or difficulty, such as a mental health condition or disability ” . Such cases are to be referred to the line manager of the member of staff.

Sanctions which could be imposed on offending local residents –  [ the Policy document refers to throughout as “customers”]  include the following:-

  • Placing limits on the number of occasions and duration of contact with staff in a given time period
  • Limiting the ‘customer’ to one method of contact (eg telephone, letter or email) and one disignated member of the council’s management team as a point of contact
  • Requiring any personal contact to be in the presence of a witness – and in a “suitable location”.
  • Refusing to register and process further complaints on the same issue
  • Requiring the ‘customer’ to make contact with the council through a third party only
  • Refusing ‘the customer’ access to any council building “as it is the council’s right to do so”
  • In exceptional circumstances applying for a civil injunction against the ‘customer’

The document goes on to say that the council “will not ignore” service requests or new complaints from customers who are “classified as unreasonable”  .

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Nick Bennett

The Penarth Council’s Draft “Unreasonable Behaviour” Code also states – somewhat surprisingly – that in exceptional circumstances the COUNCIL could refer cases to the “Ombudsman”.

[PDN Note : It is normally members of the public who refer cases of alleged maladministration in public bodies to the Ombudsman for Wales. The Ombudsman is primarily charged with the duty of investigating complaints about public services in Wales and looking into complaints that members of local councils have broken their authority’s code of conduct.]


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  1. Concerned Citizen says:

    What an overreaction! Common sense seems to have flown out of the window. If they can’t handle the ‘few’ awkward cusses around they should go on a course, not waste their time producing long, unenforceable documents.

  2. Chris David says:

    • Refusing ‘the customer’ access to any council building “as it is the council’s right to do so” OK can the council deny a member of the public access to NOT council property- its OUR property without a court orders- ASBO or the like. This needs testing as the council are ducking and diving over issues such as PACL. OH and banning, maybe illegally people like Nicki Page who ask questions the council wish to avoid.
    * Persistently approaching the council through different routes or getting others to do so about the same issue. Is THIS about Emma Boylan trying to avoid questions- even single one time questions by putting on a spam email filter to try (doesn’t work does it Ms Boylan) and avoid questions she doesn’t want to face up to? She’s been outwitted and doesn’t like it. These are just for starters, I love * consider insisting a customer approaching the throne through a third party only- WOW how high and mighty. Walk out backwards ? Why after a hundred + years plus does this council want to introduce these measures now? Some of the above is very reasonable and I’m surprised the council don’t have procedures in place to control unreasonable behaviour already- not very professional. However badly hidden in the serious stuff is an attempt to avoid accountability. Its also bullying and its draconian. E Boylan who I’ll bet is behind this thinks she’s some kind of lord of the manor. As much as I hate it say it- I’d love Penarth to be autonomous if we could get in a good Clark and a few independent councillors – perhaps its time we asked what is its purpose? It has no power. What does it do the VoG as bad as it is, couldn’t do itself at far less cost. PTC couldn’t even save Northcliffe. They have no say in the Pier and cannot control PACL. Why does it exists? Just asking.

    • Dan Doherty says:

      I can recommend a Clark’s pie Christopher.

      • Chris David says:

        Oh yes thank you Dan the Doppelganger. Love em so much I export them for Charente “Clarks Pie” parties. They indeed huff and puff if I fail. Clive- its Serfs not citizens.

  3. Dan Doherty says:

    As most of the culprits are contributors here, stand by for much huffing, puffing and righteous indignation.

  4. Anne Greagsby says:

    So over the top. Who do they think they are? Permission to ignore any citizen of Penarth who asks awkward questions and ban them from public buildings! Who will decide, the Penarth town council kangaroo court will determine all guilty with no right of appeal? How long will the sentences be? Secret committees are bad enough but this is all getting ridiculous. Haven’t they better things to do? Maybe they could discuss PACL and the future or how to protect our conservation areas or even fixing our pavements…. Shame on the labour party for even putting such nonsense on the agenda.

  5. Clive says:

    I would urge the council to think of residents as citizens, not customers

  6. Penileaks says:

    The PTC may well have reason to consider some such measures, but it does smack of them and Ms Boylan in particular, appearing unwilling to face any sort of detailed or persistent questioning over anything and the suggestion that – ‘Contact which may be amiable but which places heavy demands on staff time or may be very emotionally charged and distressing for all involved’, is one reason to start banning people from asking those questions is ridiculous and a dangerous precedent if adopted.
    What are they frightened of ? Is it actually having to do something, or perhaps they are worried by increasing the stress induced time off, like their cousins in the VoG offices appear to suffer from regularly if they actually have to answer difficult questions, or actually have deal with the public face-to-face.
    Communism is coming soon to a council office near you. Kim Jong will be very impressed !

  7. Martin.Coffee says:

    What I notice about all this is that there is nothing to say how we will be treated in return. Surely there should be similar instructions on how the staff deal with the public?

    There is also a legal flaw in this document which could cost the council dear so I hope they pass it through the council’s solicitors before it goes “live”.

  8. Andrew Worsley says:

    The people are not ‘customers’ they are ‘tax payers’, the people pay these ‘upstarts’ and they have no business putting restrictions and codes of behaviour on the public. If they find it difficult to deal with the public they need to get another job, I agree people should be warned that abuse will not be tolerated but making a list of scenarios and making a smoke cloud of obscure rules and regulations is silly if not plain stupid. They seem to forget they are ‘public servants’ which means they serve the public , they are servants of the people not their masters . As for using the silly word ‘customers’ one needs to ask what is up for sale? , customers buy items the Council don’t sell any!!!???

    • Chris David says:

      Yes indeed- but its clear we are not dealing with rational people. We are dealing with delusional people that have a high opinion of their worth and power. They obfuscate, ignore, childishly try to block the public from communicating unless on their terms and try to banish the very people that own them and our property from enjoying said property unless we behave in a manner they prescribe. Tin pot powerless Clerk and council in the (little) big picture as VoG call the tune- so they try to show they’re kick ass. Ludicrous and a bit sad. .

  9. Catherine Jones says:

    Customers indeed! Who do you all think you are at Penarth Council? You work for all the people of Penarth not yourselves and if the job is to hard for you then leave .You must not put a barrier between the people you work for and your self-important selves.It all sounds on- sided to me and it’s a dangerous road to go down. What next? Catherine Jones.

  10. Clare says:

    What a waste of police resources . Maybe zero tolerance should be applied to the penarth cemetery by those that have to tolerate the disgusting state of it there. Penarth town council are a disgraceful waste of our council tax

  11. Anne Greagsby says:

    And if you want to contact your local labour town Councillor about this nonsense they don’t reply to emails, the few on twitter quickly block you if you have difficult questions and there are no local surgeries.I can not understand why people voted them in!?

Comments are closed.