Torbay Council to pay £25,000 to 'suicidal' debtor

A Devon council has been told to pay a "suicidal" man £25,000 after its actions resulted in him going bankrupt.

Torbay Council was found guilty by the Local Government Ombudsman of injustice by maladministration in the case of the man who defaulted on council tax.

Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin said that the council failed to take the mental health of the man, known as Mr C, into account when it pursued the debt.

Mayor Gordon Oliver said the council accepted the criticism.

Dr Martin said the man started to have psychiatric problems in 2006 and stopped answering the door and paying bills.

'Considerable distress'

Council tax arrears built up to about £2,000 when the council took out a bankruptcy order against the man.

This ended up costing him about £24,000, because he had to take out a loan against his house.

Dr Martin said there were many signs that the man was unwell and it should not have pursued the man in the way that it did.

A bailiff reported to the council that the man was suicidal, but the bankruptcy action was still pursued.

The ombudsman said the council failed to keep proper records about the case and failed to reconsider its decision to pursue bankruptcy when more information came to light about Mr C's "suicidal" condition.

She said Mr C had undergone "considerable distress" and she ordered Torbay council to apologise and pay him £25,000.

Councillor Oliver said: "The council must accept the rebuke and its responsibilities and put things right and make sure it doesn't happen again.

"You don't want to hurt your own people."

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