Anger at closure of housing office

PUBLISHED: 10:34 29 May 2014

Exmouth Town Hall.

Exmouth Town Hall.

Archant

Exmouth’s emergency housing office has been closed for the past week owing to ‘significant’ fears for the safety of council workers.

Early last week two police officers armed with a Taser sectioned a visitor to the district council’s housing needs team, based at Exmouth Town Hall, as shocked reception staff looked on.

Following the incident a decision was taken on Thursday to close the office to the public.

One week on, during which a safety review was held, the drop-in sessions are due to resume today (Thursday).

But the week-long closure has been blasted by town clerk Colin Poole, who said his staff had been left to face the anger of homeless residents who turned up to the town hall to find the service had been withdrawn.

In an email to the district council’s housing department, Mr Poole said the town council had not been consulted.

He confirmed that two police officers had visited the town hall, equipped with a Taser, because of somebody seeking help.

He wrote: “My staff found themselves in the middle of an incident which was pre-arranged without consultation by your department to take place in our workspace.

“Luckily the incident went off without the fuss your department anticipated.”

He added: “I suppose you simply expect the town council staff to deal with the fallout from this, without any consultation by you, before closing the busiest service in East Devon?”

Mr Poole said it was his staff who on a daily basis ‘faced the initial anger of your clients, comfort those in tears and are there to give your staff back-up if there are any concerns over safety’.

He said that he had changed the sign so his staff did not ‘have to take the flak for [East Devon District Council’s] decision’.

John Golding, head of housing, replied: “We have two very shaken and upset staff following this incident that we have a duty of care towards. I understand that you rightly have similar concerns about your town hall staff.

“Please be assured that we are working to reinstate the service as quickly as possible, and I apologise for any inconvenience this action has caused.”

A spokesman for EDDC said: “This incident highlighted the fact that there were shortcomings in the physical layout of the area set aside for drop-in sessions and that this potentially made staff vulnerable.

“We recognise that the communication aspect of this decision could have been handled better and we will learn from that awareness.

“We have apologised to [the] Exmouth town clerk and his staff for the impact that this unavoidable course of action had on them.”

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