Hartlepool Borough Council chiefs speak out over "unacceptable behaviour" from public towards staff

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Council chiefs have raised concerns over "unacceptable and unreasonable behaviour" towards local authority staff.

Hartlepool Borough Council bosses said councillors would be “absolutely appalled” at some of the treatment their workforce faces while carrying out their jobs.

The comments came as part of a report to the finance and policy committee on Monday (July 3) on how the authority is progressing carrying out the aims of the council plan for 2021-2024.

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Council managing director Denise McGuckin highlighted the increase in “unacceptable and unreasonable behaviour from members of the public” as an area of concern which may impact future progress.

Hartlepool council bosses are concerned at abuse from the public towards staff.Hartlepool council bosses are concerned at abuse from the public towards staff.
Hartlepool council bosses are concerned at abuse from the public towards staff.

She said: “I have recently seen a video from a member of staff actually out in the community where he has things thrown at him, that is now part of a police investigation.

“I think members should see it because I think you’ll be absolutely appalled what our workforce are dealing with in delivering day to day basic services in our community.”

It comes after Mrs McGuckin and the then council leader Cllr Shane Moore last year signed a declaration committing to a clampdown on abuse towards staff.

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It marked the launch of a new staff safety policy, outlining how the council expects employees to be treated in face to face, telephone, email and online interactions.

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Council reports around that time noted a total of 80 incidents of violence and aggression towards council staff were recorded in 2021/22.

Incidents had reached a peak of 240 in 2019/20, leading to the launch of the “Respect: Everyone Deserves It” campaign in March 2020 and the creation of a staff safety forum.

Other areas of potential concern for the future raised by the council plan included difficulties with recruitment and retention across services the council provides, although officers added this was a “national thing as well”.

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The council also has an ageing workforce and could face potential future knowledge and skills gaps if they are unable to recruit “new talent”, while they also face the impact of cost of living pressures.

However, Mrs McGuckin praised “every council officer” for their work in helping to “achieve priorities and achievements to date”.

Examples include work to deliver Tall Ships 2023, progress on the new Highlight leisure centre, community hub improvements, starting work on Towns Deal schemes and various public health projects.