Huntingdonshire District Council forced to apologise over “inappropriate” email

A LONG-term job seeker struggling to pay his rent arrears was shocked when a housing support officer described him as not having a “pen and paper – or �perhaps a brain handy”.

A LONG-term job seeker struggling to pay his rent arrears was shocked when a housing support officer described him as not having a “pen and paper – or �perhaps a brain handy”.

The Huntingdonshire District Council officer was forced to apologise for the comments she made about Ian Bigg in an e-mail after she met him to discuss a court appearance for money owed on a tenancy agreement with Bedford Pilgrims Housing Association.

Writing to a colleague, she said: “He would like me to send a letter out to him confirming the date and time of his meeting with you (as he doesn’t have a pen and paper – or perhaps a brain handy).”

Mr Bigg was so appalled by the accusation that he made a formal complaint to HDC.

Housing services administrator Linda Hart wrote back to him a day later to say: “Your complaint was immediately investigated. The evidence speaks for itself and I assure you that the appropriate actions will be taken regarding her conduct.

“She has asked that I sincerely apologise to you on her behalf for the offence and upset that she has caused you.”

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She went on to say: “I, too, would like to apologise on behalf of housing services for the inappropriate comments made in the e-mail. I assure you this is not our normal level of customer service and will ensure that this never happens again.”

Even though the complaint was upheld, Mr Bigg said: “I don’t feel satisfied. It is not as if someone has apologised to my face. I think it’s disgusting the way they treat customers.”

The 27-year-old, of Walnut Tree Drive, is a former council employee. He worked as an administrator for the economic services and community safety departments but said he had not been working for about 12 months.

He had fallen into rent arrears and was trying to pay back the money he owed when he met council officers. It was while he was there that he saw the e-mail.

Mr Bigg said: “I came to them with a problem and they are supposed to help. If I hadn’t been a stronger person, it could have been the final nail in the coffin. How could they treat someone vulnerable like that?

“I hope it will stop them talking about others like this.”

A spokesman for HDC said: “We would like to once again sincerely apologise to Mr Bigg for the upset that this may have caused him.

“Following the complaint on May 6, a verbal apology was given at the time by one of our customer services supervisors. We took immediate action and the appropriate measures were taken to ensure this does not happen again.

“In a letter of apology, which was sent out the following day, we gave Mr Bigg an opportunity to proceed to part two of the council’s complaint procedure if he remained unhappy with the outcome of our investigation. He has not contacted us again on this matter.

“However, since then we have assisted Mr Bigg by representing him in court and managing to keep him in his home rather than him being evicted.”

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