Saturday, 28 February 2015

Does the public sector see some complainants as trolls?


Or something along those lines. Lawrence Serewicz explores this question asking whether the easy way in which the public sector leaps to use the word 'vexatious' in closing off the ability of the public to complain about how that public sector treats us:

The public sector in the UK, which has to do the same or more with a reduced budget, has sought way to limit those customers that take up the most time. These customers were often called “problem customers” or “serial complainers” who, for any number of reasons, take up the organisation’s time and resources. They are considered persistent, prolific, or vexatious applicants and organisations, and their customer services, need a way to deal with them. The preferred approach appears to be to declare them vexatious. Once declared vexatious, the organisation can refuse them services, reduce them or manage them in a specific way.

I suspect Lawrence has a point here - he cites the easy avoidance of Freedom of Information Requests (a good illustration being this one) as a good example of how public bodies avoid what might be seen as their responsibility under the law. As a Councillor I have a little bit of sympathy for public bodies - they can't ignore enquiries or complaints but after the twentieth iteration of the same question it can get to be a little galling. Partly this is because it's not a lack of  'customer service' that drives someone to submit over 50 enquiries about the use of around £120 of council resource (in the case I'm thinking of the motivation might be called the 'politics of vengeance').

However, Lawrence's point is a good one and reminds us that most of the time it's those in authority that hold the cards, can call the cops (and have those cops respond) and are often minded to act to protect their own rather than seek to resolve public grievance.


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