UNREASONABLE behavour, adopting a “scattergun” approach when pursuing a complaint and making excessive demands on staff time are among the reasons why some residents have had their access to local councils restricted.
A request made under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed that Dorset County Council currently has 11 people who it says have behaved unreasonably in making their complaint and are now required to use a single point of contact.
And Bournemouth Borough Council labelled three people as being vexatious complainants in 2013. One was alleged to have behaved in an abusive or threatening manner towards a member of staff while the other two were said to have pursued numerous complaints with both the council and with officers, a councillor or the Ombudsman at the same time.
Decisions were made by a service director or chief executive and all three residents were given a single point of contact and a single contact method.
Bournemouth council also confirmed it deemed five people as vexatious complainants in 2011 and none in 2012.
The Borough of Poole said it had instigated and applied its unreasonable and unreasonably persistent complainant policy once in the past three years.
Bournemouth Liberal Democrat Cllr Roger West had his email and internet access suspended after he was alleged to have breached the Data Protection Act by forwarding on an email that named a resident as a vexatious complainant.
He said: “I don’t think anybody should be deemed vexatious without really good cause and definitely it should go through the democratic process, in other words the officers should involve members in it. It is a decision that can affect somebody’s livelihood.”
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said he stopped the practice of labelling people vexatious complainants because he was uncomfortable with restricting people’s access to the police.
He said they now tell people they have been deemed a vexatious complainant in the respect of one particular issue but they are still free to contact the police in respect of any other matter.