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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Call for CCTV after Millom council staff verbally abused

VERBAL abuse towards council staff is “not far” from becoming physical, a town meeting heard.

Millom Town Council said it would not tolerate abuse of “any form” after a spate of verbal attacks on staff left councillors calling for 24-hour CCTV provision.

The meeting on Wednesday heard how residents complaining about Copeland Borough Council services had become verbally abusive during the past three weeks.

Councillor Ray Cole said the series of incidents had taken place in the St George’s Road office which also houses Millom library and the town council.

Councillor Ray Cole said: “It is not far from becoming physical. It’s not a huge leap.

“Any form of abuse is not tolerable whether it’s emotional, physical or mental.”

He said it had led to cuts to opening hours to prevent staff working solo or, behind barriers to avoid confrontation.

It was also heard how determined abusers would then make threatening calls to the town council or intimidate library workers in the absence of borough council staff.

Cllr Cole was concerned over the low height of customer service desks and said it should be on par with hospitals and banks whose are deliberately higher to protect workers.

He added: “I have spoken to staff downstairs and they would prefer for their desks to be higher and I’m concerned it’s too low. It is far too low and it is easy for someone to just lean over and invade their space.

“I think it should be monitored by CCTV 24 hours a day we need to have a means of keeping an eye on it. What has been happening is totally unacceptable.

“We do have a duty of care to our staff.

“It’s fairly new what has happened. It’s just started about three weeks ago. We don’t know what started it.

“We won’t tolerate it. If you went into the hospital the counters would be higher, the same in the bank.”

The desks are now closed on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 12.15pm to 12.45pm, and are not open to the public at all on a Wednesday.

Councillors also suggested notices in the foyer of the building explaining which services were covered by the different councils with contact numbers for different departments to avoid confusion which has led to town council clerks and Cumbria County Council librarians fielding complaints.

Mayor Cllr Felicity Wilson said: “I really don’t know why it’s happening.

“We can’t have people carte blanche threatening staff. It’s our responsibility as employers to make sure they are safe while at work.

“At the moment it has been verbal but it’s potentially physically threatening too.”

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