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Ombudsman finds Torridge council makes two blunders in parking fine dispute

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: September 26, 2013

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TORRIDGE District Council has been ordered to repay hundreds of pounds and apologise to a resident after a debt collecting blunder.

The Local Government Ombudsman found the conduct of council bailiffs and their fees were at fault and the authority also wrongly addressed a letter containing personal information.

The mistakes will cost the council more than £200 in fines.

The ombudsman found mistakes were made by one of the authority’s bailiffs from Proserve Debt Recovery & Bailiff Services Ltd when collecting a parking fine debt.

Toby White-Chambers, 30, from Bideford, complained to the ombudsman when he felt he had been overcharged and wrongly treated for not paying a parking fine. Last year Toby contacted the council to contest a parking fine he received in February 2012.

But when he didn’t hear back from his last correspondence he thought the matter was concluded.

However, six months later Toby’s mother Hillary White, 63, was at home when she had a knock at the door at 9pm to find a bailiff demanding to speak to Toby.

The bailiff stayed at the house for 30 minutes by which time the police had been called.

The bailiff only left when Toby’s sister paid a fine of £482 for Toby’s unpaid parking ticket — £60 of which was an administration fee for the bailiff.

Toby made a complaint to Torridge District Council the following morning about how the matter had been handled.

He also took the matter to the county court where the case was dismissed. Unsatisfied with that result, Toby escalated the complaint to the Ombudsman.

Now, more than a year later, the ombudsmen has finished its investigation which found the council at fault on two counts.

The report reads: “There was some fault by the council regarding the conduct of, and fees charged by, its bailiffs when seeking payment of a parking penalty charge notice.

“The council also wrongly addressed a letter.”

The ombudsman has recommended the council apologise to Toby, pay £75 for the bailiff discussing the debt, refund him £60 administration fee and pay £75 for misdirecting the letter.

The ombudsman has also recommended the council review’s its procedures, including monitoring bailiffs’ charges.

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