Agenda item

Unreasonable Behaviour Policy

Article 2 of the Council’s Constitution gives residents the right to complain. Article 2 also explains the corresponding duty on residents to act reasonably when dealing with the Council which is committed to dealing with all complaints fairly and comprehensibly.


Attached is an Unreasonable Behaviour Policy which the Committee is being asked to approve because a small minority of those who make complaints act unreasonably.  The Policy is intended to explain to residents what happens when the duty to act reasonably is not complied with.



The Chair invited the Locum Lawyer to present the Unreasonable Behaviour Policy to the Committee on behalf of the Group Head of Law & Governance and Monitoring Officer.


            It was explained that this was an introduction to a new policy called the Unreasonable Behaviour Policy. The reason for introducing this Policy now was that for the past few years, the Council had seen an increase in challenging behaviour from a minority of its customers, the behaviour of some of these complainants was becoming unreasonable.  Therefore, the Council now needed to adopt a policy so that unreasonable behaviour could be dealt with in an open and transparent and consistent manner.


            The Locum Lawyer then alerted the Committee’s attention to Paragraph 4 of the Policy as it provided examples of unreasonable behaviour as defined by the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman. Examples of the types of behaviour that the Policy covered were listed. It was emphasised that the Unreasonable Behaviour Policy was required to address a small minority of those who made complaints unreasonably. The Policy intended to explain to residents what would happen when the duty to act reasonably was not complied with.


The Committee then discussed the Policy agreeing that it was a good Policy to have in place. A question was asked about how an unreasonable behaviour matter would be reviewed. It was accepted that this would be undertaken by the Information Management Team working to a list of confirmed checks.  A request was made to add an additional check to the bullet point list set out in Paragraph 4.4 of the Policy which was to ensure that the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Council be consulted.  This was proposed as an amendment by Councillor Clayden and was seconded by Councillor Roberts.


The Committee then debated this amendment. Although there was no major disagreement to the amendment being aired, a question was asked as to whether this was necessary as the Policy was being introduced linked to staff and their protection, it did not relate or cover Councillors.  With any decisions resting with Officers, was this amendment required?


The Locum Lawyer explained the three dimensions covering this Policy with one being the need to ensure staff and their safety. There was also a good governance dimension which was not to do with staff but the need to ensure that when someone was being called an unreasonable complainant there was a formal process in place for addressing that.  The amendment proposed could be accepted if it was consultation that was being undertaken with the Leader or Deputy Leader and not a request to agree to any action proposed. This was because the Chief Executive was the Head of Paid Service and responsible for staffing matters not Councillors.





A further request was made as to whether it would be possible to ensure that Ward Members would be informed of matters relating to their Wards in view of the liaison that they had with constituents. The Locum Lawyer confirmed that it would not be inappropriate to consult with ward members, as these instances were rare examples and so it would not be a burden to officers to consult. 


Further clarification was sought on the amendment proposed and whether the wording should read “that the Chief Executive and the Leader of the Council have  been consulted?”  The Proposer to the amendment was asked to confirm if he would be happy with this adjusted wording.  Councillor Clayden confirmed that he wished to have added the Deputy Leader to cover events when the Leader might be absent as the Chief Executive would have already been consulted.  Councillor Clayden also confirmed that he would be happy to have included that Ward Members be informed when a matter related to their Ward. The Proposer to the amendment therefore confirmed that the amendment that should be added as a new bullet point should read “That the Leader and or Deputy Leader and Ward Members be consulted”. 


The Locum Lawyer provided some advice. He confirmed that he did now have a degree of reluctance surrounding Members being consulted. What would usually happen at the last stage of a complaint was that the complainant would often go to the Local Government Ombudsman and there was a real issue that an allegation could be made about the Leader and Deputy Leader being consulted which could lead to them being requested to provide a statement and get involved in what was an operational issue or matter. What often happened in such processes was that Councillors could get asked if they wished to support the complaint if Members were involved in the early stages of the decision; this could create an appearance of conflict and could complicate governance issues.


            The point was made by another Councillor that the wording to be added should be the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council HAD been consulted to align with the other bullet points in Paragraph 4.4. Councillor Clayden and his seconder agreed to this wording.


Following some further questions from a non-Committee Member, the voting on the amendment proposed by Councillor Clayden and seconded by Councillor Roberts was approved unanimously.


The Chair then returned to the substantive recommendations as amended which were proposed by Councillor Mrs Cooper and seconded by Councillor Roberts.


            The Committee









That the Unreasonable Behaviour Policy be agreed and adopted subject to an additional bullet point (5) being added to the list of bullet points at Paragraph 4.4 to read “That the Leader and Deputy Leader had been consulted”.



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