A woman has complained to council watchdogs after the town hall tried to take her to court for not paying her grandmother’s care home fees, causing her credit score to plummet.
The complainant, named only as Ms B, said that Wigan Council attempted to get money from her for the fees, despite it not being her signature on the agreement forms.
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Ms B filed the grievance with the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), claiming that the wrongful Count Court Judgement (CCJ) has caused her “distress and anxiety” and impacted upon her ability to obtain credit.
Despite looking into the complaint, the ombudsman has decided not to take it any further because the council has since tried to rectify the situation by setting the CCJ aside - four years later.
The investigation found that in 2014, Ms B received a CCJ summons for costs the council said she had agreed to pay towards her grandmother’s care home.
When Ms B asked why she had been given the order, she was told that she had signed an agreement to be responsible for these fees, but had not paid them.
It was only after asking to see the documents two years later, that Ms B realised it was not her signature at the bottom, a fact she pointed out to the council immediately.
However, as Ms B failed to submit an official defence to the judgment, it has been hanging over her ever since.
The LGO report says: “The Council investigated her complaint about this but it was unable to conclude that she had not signed the form, that a fraud had been perpetrated against her or that the CCJ had been incorrectly entered against her. “
It was not until the end of 2018 that the council reviewed the outstanding arrears and contacted Ms B about them.
She then asked that the matter be reviewed again and in early 2019, the town hall decided that it should not have taken recovery action against her irrespective of the signature on the agreement.
The council also confirmed it would be reviewing how it deals with situations where a third party might be held responsible for another person’s debts to prevent a repeat of what happened in Ms B’s case.
Unhappy with the way that the case had been dealt with, Ms B contacted the LGO, who said: “This has caused her distress and anxiety and impacted upon her ability to obtain credit.”
However, the ombudsman did criticise Ms B for not defending her case sooner, saying that she had known the signature was wrong since 2016 and had done very little to submit a defence against the CCJ.
It concluded: “The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint.
“This is because Ms B knew the disputed CCJ had been obtained in 2014 and the Council has now taken appropriate action to have the Judgement set aside.”
Joanne Willmott, assistant director for provider management and market development said: “We will always look to work with our residents to ensure resolutions. It’s good that we were able to resolve this matter meaning that the Ombudsman did not consider the need to investigate.”