Some of Penarth’s town councillors on the front lawn at the Council HQ at West House, Stanwell Road

The Labour-controlled Penarth Town Council last night abruptly “suspended” a scheduled discussion on the draft of the council’s controversial new  “POLICY ON THE MANAGEMENT OF UNREASONABLE AND VIOLENT CUSTOMER BEHAVIOUR”.

The new draft policy [ see PDN report is – in effect – a rule book for Penarth residents – who are described throughout as “customers”.

Penarth Town Council’s controversial “Unreasonable Behaviour” document lays down 19 types of behaviour by local residents and council tax payers which the council considers to be be unreasonable

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

The rule-book sets out no fewer than 19 separate categories of what the council defines as “unreasonable behaviour” by members of the public.  These include:-

  • 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
  • Escalating a complaint to a more senior officer after the receipt of a response with which they disagree

Although the document is still in draft form [it was actually written in July] it appears already to have been implemented.

Penarth Council staff called police to remove Penarth Pier pavilion campaigner Nicki Page from a concert she was attending with friends at the Paget Rooms on September 1st . Two police vans and four officers arrived at the scene . There were no arrests, and no charges brought. The new draft council policy says Penarth Council operates a zero-tolerance approach and will always report incidents to the Police”

On September 1st 2 police vans turned up at the  Paget Rooms at the behest of council staff to remove local resident and Pier Pavilion campaigner Ms Nicki Page.  Ms Page was attending a concert with friends to mark her birthday and had purchased tickets for the event. The 4 police officers attending the scene decided that no offences had been committed, no arrests were made and no charges were brought.

When details of Penarth Council’s draft document/rule-book were made public by PDN two days ago there was considerable public reaction – which was almost overwhelmingly negative. Amongst comments made by PDN commentators were the following remarks:-

  • What an overreaction! Common sense seems to have flown out of the window”
  • “It’s bullying and its draconian”
  • “So over the top. Who do they think they are?”
  • “I would urge the council to think of residents as citizens, not customers”
  • “Kim Jong will be very impressed !”
  • “What I notice about all this is that there is nothing to say how we will be treated in return.”
  • “They seem to forget they are ‘public servants’ which means they serve the public , they are servants of the people not their masters”
  • “We are dealing with delusional people that have a high opinion of their worth and power.”
  • “Who do you all think you are at Penarth Council? You work for all the people of Penarth, not yourselves”

Last night councillors who belong to Penarth Town Council’s policy committee had been  scheduled to discuss the draft document in detail – but at the last moment this discussion was abruptly “suspended”. 

Cllr Mike Cuddy Leader of Penarth Town Council

The Leader of the council,  Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines), said “I’m going to suggest we suspend discussion of this.”.

In the absence of the Town Clerk Emma Boylan  – who was indisposed – Cllr Cuddy told the Deputy Town Clerk he would not be asking him to read out the Town Clerk’s report  [which had accompanied the ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’ policy document on the committee’s agenda].

Cllr Cuddy said “We would like to affirm that we fully support the [council] staff in their day-to-day tasks  . It was the Public Service Ombudsman who said that ‘councillors should have ‘thick skins’  – but that doesn’t apply to  council staff ,  who should be treated as a normal member of the community  in their role  and shouldn’t expect to be abused – and we fully support them”

Cllr Cuddy went on to say “Obviously we should have a policy. This [ i.e the draft document] may be too extensive or needs to be topped-and-tailed and reviewed collectively ” . He suggested that to take on that task a  so-called “task and finish group” should be set up.

Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) – who invariably follows the Labour line in council meetings – said he “fully supported” what Cllr Cuddy had said and added “We need to make sure staff feel comfortable at work and are not harassed in any way –  unnecessarily so . We do need to have this policy . We do need to be careful we are supporting and protecting our staff”.

Cllr mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell)

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) proposed that the composition of the “task-and-finish group” should consist of 6 members – comprising 4 Labour councillors and  2 from “the other side[ i.e. the Conservatives] . He suggested that – because of his expertise in events management  –  Councillor Ben Gray could be one of the Conservative members

Cllr Martin Turner – who is the leader of the Conservative group on Penarth Town Council  will sit on the task and finish group – but made the counter-nomination of Cllr Gary Allman (Conservative St Augustines)  to join him on the group as he has similar expertise. Cllr Turner said Cllr Gray was tied up on other matters.

Cllr Cuddy proposed that the Town Clerk, Emma Boylan, should also be involved.

After the task and finish group has revised the policy draft, it will go the council’s Human Resources Committee – the meetings of which are not open to the press.

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  1. Chris David says:

    Emma Boylan indisposed! Well if genuinely ill or inconvenienced get well soon. I’ll send her (around her spam filter) a get well. Or was it that she bottled out of presenting her own “don’t ask EB questions plan”? And now we have a task and finish group. Do what normal people dealing with the public do. Put a sign up in reception. Now stop ducking ad diving- answer the questions that lead to this-yes that’s the real reason for all this and drop the banning of people without a court order- it that’s even legal.

  2. Papa Lazarou says:

    You will obey..Yes

  3. daipop1 says:

    Penarth Town Junta – sorry folks we expect our “public servants” to serve the public who elected them not tell us in what manner that service will be dispensed – common sense & common courtesy to prevail please?

  4. Anne Greagsby says:

    So now they are going to discuss this draconian policy behind closed doors. Pity Cllrs and staff couldn’t spend their time and energy on Penarth matters for the residents who pay them …not plot ways of controlling us. Unbelievable. This must be be discussed in public.

  5. Frederick says:

    I’m currently drafting a document entitled ‘POLICY ON THE MANAGEMENT OF UNREASONABLE AND POMPOUS (BEYOND BELIEF) TOWN COUNCILS’ which sets out 19 standards of behaviour expected of town councils, and their staff, when dealing with ‘customers’.
    With a sub heading (WHO DO THEY THINK THEY’RE KIDDING?) the ‘rule book’ will warn councillors exactly how they will be ‘dealt with’ if they do not adhere to this standard.
    Misdemeanours will include:
    * Dismissing valid issues raised by well-meaning members of the public
    * Couching said avoidance of issues in counter-accusations of harassment
    * Damaging the town’s reputation in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public, with petty, precious behaviour which would not be out of place in The Vicar of Dibley.

    It should be noted that all transgressions will be subject to police enforcement.

    The document will also address any perceived misdirection of resources, namely the abuse of enforcement bodies in relation to well-meaning citizens.
    For the moment, my work is suspended, though on completion it will be topped and tailed by a task and revision group before proceeding to HR .

  6. Andrew Jones says:

    What an unbelievable farse. For shame on each and everyone at the Town Council for even allowing this to get this far.

    You have presented a draft document that makes you look absolutely foolish as a Council – how can residents have any respect for you? If I didn’t know better I would think it is from the script of a Yes Prime Minsister Xmas special

    For goodness sake book yourselves on a course in basic customer care and put what you learn into action

    • Comedy Gold says:

      Couldn’t agree more but is Yes Minister aiming a little high?
      I was thinking more of Last of the Summer Wine.

  7. Grey local says:

    I think this is the time for Penarth Town Council to declare themselves not only out of tune and out of date with current thinking in even suggesting such draconian measures. is there van a need for a town council? I suggest they are redundant to the needs of the townspeople and should thrown in the towel, resign and use the savings to mend pavements etc…

  8. JohnP says:

    On a slightly different matter but which shows the inefficiency of the Council I have just received an email telling me that the Red Ensign will be flown outside West House this coming Sunday , 3rd September!

    • Ann Other says:

      Grounds for a complaint, presumably. Really, you don’t HAVE to send it he message if it is too late, do you? It makes them look ridiculous.

  9. Ann Other says:

    The last one (in bullet pointed list) is not unreasonable at all. It is just what you’d expect to find in a standard complaints provedure. I wonder whether they have a complaints provedure, in fact? Or is the complaints system only a one.-way street?

    • Anne Greagsby says:

      It is unreasonable that there is no right to appeal against your sentence or have a right of reply to the kangaroo court!? Completely subjective!

  10. snoggerdog says:

    there is no r in daft.

  11. Cllr Mark Wilson says:

    It is untrue to say that the Human Resources Ctte will be entirely private. It depends on what is diecussed.

    • Chris David says:

      Die-cussed! Apt 🙂 Well glad one of you councillors is listening and breaking your gagging order. Now Cllr Wilson. Sort out PACL – where’s the money gone? Get down off your collective high horses- reign in your boss- the Town Clark and stop hiding behind the police to ban middle aged women from their own property. If you want to ban people you should test it in the courts and prove your case. NOT send it the heavy mob because your being asked awkward questions.

  12. Penileaks says:

    Perhaps the knowledge that a member of the public, closely involved in this overall issue, was taking legal advice over the legality of the councils actions, was enough to make the council have second thoughts………for now !

  13. John Powell says:

    I also had the out of date email about the red ensign, and last month had an update about special transport arrangements (laying on a special bus) for the Vale Show . .. which had been held the week before! My friend also received from them – via a postal address in Yorkshire! – what he says was a really pompous letter about the cuts to venue hirings and the rise in fees, which he said had referenced the massive concession that bookings made previously would not have the increase applied to them. Generous indeed.
    Need we forget that the council has also managed to lose the regular Record
    Fair to St Cyres school !!

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