Council’s war on e-mail nuisance

ONE Huntingdonshire resident has been so persistently vexatious in complaining to and about the district council that it is set to block any future e-mails from him. Huntingdonshire District Council refuses to name the complainant or say what triggered th

ONE Huntingdonshire resident has been so persistently vexatious in complaining to and about the district council that it is set to block any future e-mails from him.

Huntingdonshire District Council refuses to name the complainant or say what triggered the flood of complaints and abuse, but says he telephones and e-mails multiple recipients among the council's officers and members, costing tens of thousands of pounds in council time.

The council's corporate governance panel was due yesterday (Tuesday) evening, as The Hunts Post went to press, to agree a new policy that would allow the council to bar e-mails and control telephone calls from persistent or vexatious complainants.

If the complaints do not abate, HDC could consider applying for a High Court injunction or an anti-social behaviour order.


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Peter Watkins, HDC's director of central services, said: "We can't have spamming e-mails to all and sundry. He complains about all areas of the district council's policies. Over a period of time he has cost Council Tax payers tens of thousands of pounds."

Not only does the anonymous person bombard HDC with complaints, but he demands time-consuming searches for obscure information under the Freedom of Information Act, Data Protection Act and Environmental Information Regulations.

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Never satisfied with the council's response, Mr Watkins added, he then complains to the Local Government Ombudsman, the Standards Board for England, the Secretary of State, the council's external auditor and the Information Commissioner - wasting yet more public money.

"He has reported officers and councillor ad nauseam. It takes up an enormous amount of our resources," Mr Watkins said.

"We can't refuse access to everything, and he is entitled to make representations, but we want to control the environment in which he does that."

Yesterday, its patience finally exhausted, HDC was set to block his e-mails, insist that any future requests under data protection and freedom of information laws are dealt with by post and that requests for environmental information be in writing or by phone to the council's call centre, together with any future service inquiries, and short-circuit the procedure for future complaints.

But Mr Watkins insisted that, because a future complaint from the man might have some substance, his allegations would continue to be investigated.

The new policy on persistent and vexatious complaints supersedes one drawn up two years ago - because of the same man.

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