Devon

Torbay Council agrees to pay £25,000 to 'suicidal' man

A council in Devon has agreed to compensate a "suicidal" man after its actions resulted in him going bankrupt.

Torbay Council pursued the man, known only as Mr C, for council tax arrears of £2,000, despite being told by its own bailiffs that he was suicidal.

Last year the Local Government Ombudsman found the council guilty of causing injustice by maladministration.

The council initially offered to pay the man £1,000, but it has now agreed to pay him £25,000.

It will also offer him an apology.

Criticism accepted

Mr C started to suffer from mental health issues in 2006 and he stopped paying his bills.

When council tax arrears built up to about £2,000, Torbay Council took out a bankruptcy order against him, which ended up costing him about £24,000, because he had to take out a loan against his house.

Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin said the Conservative-led council failed to keep proper records about the case and refused to reconsider its decision to pursue bankruptcy even when information about Mr C's "suicidal" condition came to light.

This failure, she said, had caused a serious injustice.

"There is no evidence that the complainant was capable of dealing with his own affairs at the time of the recovery action, or that bankruptcy was a considered decision taken in the knowledge of potential mental illness after the due weighing of all pertinent facts," the ombudsman said.

She added that she recognised that the award was a "considerable figure", but that there was an argument for that level for compensation to be paid.

Torbay Mayor Gordon Oliver said the council now accepted the ombudsman's criticism and voted overwhelmingly to accept her recommendations.

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