New policy for complainants

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A parish council has had to adopt a policy on dealing with malicious and vexatious complaints after receiving more than 80 from one resident.

At last August’s meeting, a resident was given permission to speak against a planning application and gave his name and address.

But he did not appear to realise that his details could and would be reported in the minutes, despite these details being minuted in 2006 and 2011 when he himself made planning applications.

Since then he has contacted the council around 60 times making 80 complaints and even going as far as taking his protests to his MP, the Office of the Information Commissioner and making five formal complaints to Northumberland County Council.

And on the morning of last week’s monthly meeting, every councillor, including those most recently elected, received a solicitor’s letter on a possible complaint to the information commissioner.

Giving his chairman’s report at last week’s meeting, outgoing chairman Coun Jeff Reynalds, said: “He has scrutinised everything that Rothbury Parish Council has done and has raised many issues.

“The issues have been carefully considered and where there appears to be some merit the council has taken action to improve systems and operations.”

In the two months from August 6, the council received 33 requests from the complainant.

Twenty of these were granted and 13 refused with reasons.

The last correspondence was received on April 1 and appeared to have some 20 complaints, all of which have been answered by the council.

A number of new policies have been adopted by the council including a habitual and vexatious complaints procedure because of the magnitude of his correspondence.

Coun Reynalds added: “It is hoped that Rothbury Parish Council and its members may be able to devote more time and resources to work in the community of Rothbury rather than spending most of the time answering complaints from one member of the public.

“It is regretted that there have been a number of things that we have wanted to do in the village, but because we have been so busy trying to sort this out we have been unable to do so.”

The latest complaint asked the parish council to send a copy of every document held about him – but Coun Reynalds said that mainly consists of his letters and replies.

The parish council went into a private session after last week’s meeting to discuss the complaints in more detail.