Friday, 6 March 2009


Walter, in Ramsgate has drawn my attention to some business carried out recently by TDC's Overview & Scrutiny Panel in regard to complaints to the Council.

'Donna Reed said that whilst the majority of complaints received by the Council were genuine and received a thorough investigation, there was need to agree a policy on vexatious complaints to manage the nuisance caused by a few persistent complainants; this policy would give a standardised structure to handling such situations. Each service would have to put in a case for designating a complaint as vexatious which would ultimately be decided by the Monitoring Officer.
Members observed that while this was a good idea, officers should also ensure that genuine complaints raised by Councillors on behalf of their constituents were dealt with expeditiously. Donna Reed said a management system would be set up to track Members’ queries.
The Panel supported the policy, subject to an amendment that there be a review after six months of implementation to determine the effectiveness of the policy and a further report presented to the Panel.'

What worries me about this is what exactly is the policy and who determines who is a vexatious and persistent complainer? Bertie has been told that certain Thanet citizens, when they identify themselves, are stalled ( presumably whilst list is checked) and given the promise that 'X' will ring back and it never happens! Sounds a bit familiar?
So be wary when complaining or raising issues with departments in Toy Town's Town Hall; you are either 'on the list' already or might soon be.
What I find extraordinary is that whilst Planning was 'up to its neck in alligators in the swamp' of the China Gateway application last summer, Doug Brown was exemplary in fielding a host of questions, enquiries, concerns and moans by e-mail or by phone in a courteous and helpful manner and never failed to respond or elucidate or clarify. His example as a public servant striving to serve the electorate, no matter how mundane or repetitive the enquiry or moan should be considered by TDC as the 'model' for all its officers.
One is beginning to think that TDC regards its 'involved' electorate, as opposed to those who don't even realise it exists, as a pain in the butt! A dangerous and arrogant stance?


Anonymous said...

I think they regard Freedom of Information Act requests as 'vexatious' as well since they fail on a regular basis to reply within the required 20 days. I've had to send reminders that I've yet to receive a reply and the answer, bar one, has been 'We do not have that information'. Really? I happen to know they do but have chosen not to reveal it.

tony flaig bignews said...

I believe that there have been instances where local residents have made bogus and malign, complaints because they have some grudge, I hope and assume that this is the target.

I know of one of my readers who has been subjected with years of harassment from a neighbour because the council till date have not had the judgement to deal properly and in a measured way.

If this is their intention, well done. If they wish to be obstructive then thats a different matter.

Anonymous said...

some complaints are malicious neighbours who continiously complain unjustifably to the council and know how to "work the system" and they need to be addressed accordingly, as it stands at the moment they can keep complaining ad finitum and the council still has a duty to deal with each complaint, even if it has been looked at before and this has been used to the complainant's benefit to misuse the system!Hope that makes sense! As one on the receiving end they definately need a policy for vexacious complainants!It is a let out for the officers not the councillors!

Anonymous said...

I was pleased with TDC's Morgan Sproates (Land Contamination Officer) response re my FOI application which revealed Sericol's contamination of aquifer.

One of Richard Samuel's first moves,upon appointment as Chief Executive, was to copy matters put to TDC Standards Cttee before his appointment (Complaints re Cllr Hayton, failures to enforce planning law etc) to Police.

Did he feel that he, and TDC, were under a Common Law Obligation to do so ? Extraordinary given the extent TDC had covered up matters. Such as by Standards sitting without the casefile and deciding on no action as they had no jurisdiction.

Surely the situation must have been that Richard Samuel thought differently ?

Was he entitled to take action under Common Law obligation on behalf of Full Council who had ratified the earlier no action decision ? Without referring to the elected cllrs about the implications of their decision in law ?

If the Chief Executive knew and recognised that TDC was wrong in law why was the matter not put back to Full Council ?

Perhaps the paid officer thought it would have been too vexatious for the elected members to take responsibility. Best shelter them eh ?

(It is an Offence at Common Law to fail to report knowledge of certain crimes as soon as possible to a Constable or Justice of the Peace. The failure to report was up to 1998 punishable by death and since the Human Rights Act is punishable by life imprisonment. TDC had voted to fail to report ....)

James Maskell said...

Theres a difference between complaining properly and vexacious and persistent complaints. It must get to a point where a line must be drawn on that complaint, where the Council has done all it can to help the complainant but its reached a dead end. Theres a difference between a genuine complaint and borderline hassling, which isnt fair on the staff who have plenty to deal with as it is.

The full guidance and policy should explain the process re who calls it. Im guessing a manager would look at the record and a final response would be sent.