COUNCIL bosses have pledged to take firm action against anyone who is violent or aggressive to its staff.

Last year, Durham County Council launched a respect campaign after bin crews were put at risk from members of the public and it recently spent thousands of pounds to step up security.

It came after a catalogue of incidents in which refuse workers suffered abuse, violence and reckless driving whilst going about their day jobs– some of which was caught on CCTV fitted to big wagons.

On Tuesday, the council’s audit committee, sitting at Durham County Hall, heard an update on the issue.

Between October and December last year, there were 97 entries in the council’s potentially violent persons register which logs details of behaviour that “threatens the immediate safety and welfare of staff”.

Under wider rules, problem customers can be banned from council premises in severe cases or have their contact restricted.

Durham County Council’s occupational health and safety manager, Kevin Lough, told the meeting there had been several worrying incidents involving refuse and recycling staff, including 'near misses, people trying to mow people down and bin crews being attacked'.

In recent months, the council did safety checks around customer access points and spent £49,000 on new security doors at its County Hall headquarters to improve safety.

This followed reports of a threats against council staff, including a member of the public climbing over a helpdesk to intimidate workers.

More recent work includes a request for safety audits at family advice and training centres– One Point Hubs– after a request from the Children and Young People’s Service.

After the meeting, Mr Lough stressed the authority would take 'firm action' against violence and aggression directed towards staff.

“At Durham County Council we have seen an increase in violence and aggression towards some of our employees, in particular those who provide frontline customer services, and we’re aware that other councils around the country have seen the same,” he said.

“We take the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees very seriously and proactively assess how we best ensure that they are protected.

“In response to various incidents we have launched public awareness campaigns, such as ‘respect your workforce’ which aims to improve understanding of the issues faced by employees in our refuse and recycling service.

“We take necessary action when any offenders are identified which includes the details of individuals being entered onto the council’s Potentially Violent Persons Register, which enables our employees to be aware of any risks to their health, safety and wellbeing when delivering services to the public.

 “Working closely with the police and other enforcement bodies we will ensure that we take firm action on any individuals who act violently and aggressively towards our employees, which is quite clearly unacceptable.”