Thursday, April 06, 2006

So more parking revelations

Melbourne City Council places bounty on parking fines

The Herald Sun today reports that the City of Melbourne has set in place a bounty and quota on its parking officers. This raises ongoing concern that the City of Melbourne is using parking infringements for revenue raising and not as a penalty for non-compliance.

The City of Melbourne has increased parking fines within the city of Melbourne by 46% over the last 12 months resulting in consumers abandoning the City centre and retail trade begins to suffer and Council revenues begin to drop.

The City of Melbourne under the direction of John So is creating a gated community where visitors to Melbourne City centre can expect a hefty bill at the end of the day. With poor public transport and better alternatives elsewhere most consumers are already beginning to give the City the miss.

Traffic fines should not be used as a means of revenue raising or a means of social control.

Whilst the City Council continues to push its 'War on Cars' the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor continue to benefit from free Council funded Limousines and free inner City Parking.

The long-term parking tax recently imposed on Melbourne's Car Parking establishments has been used to fund "Tourist Buses" that are in direct competition to local businesses and also compete with Melbourne Free Tourist Trams. This tax was supposed to help Melbourne elevate traffic problems and provide improvement to inner city public transport. the Tourist bus proposal will cost over 1 Million dollars into its first year and it is expected the costs will blow out even further.

The Council should have been investing in alternative cross-city mini bus services linking East Melbourne - Carlton - Parkville and North Melbourne Communities.

The article in the Herald sun is just another example as to how John So and his team are out of touch and a fraid to say no to the administration who's schemes fail to address the real needs of Melbourne.

Unfortunately we have a City Council that is not prepared to take on the administration and John So and out forward real workable alternatives. They are more interested in the perks and lurks of public office and travel overseas.

Green Councillor Fraser Brindley has provided no challenge to John So's policies as he flys off to Africa for a con-fest on the environment in fulfillment of his duties as an executive member of ICLIE, an international environment con-fest organization, funded by the City of Melbourne. The question that still has not been answered is Why is the City of Melbourne picking up the executive costs of a third party organisation? How does this directly relate to Councillors role as an elected Melbourne City Councillor or is it just a way of buying favour and complaints from Cr Brindley? Wine and dine them and they will keep quite.

And the result is Melbourne faces serious issues and the Council is absent from the debate as the administration continue their unfetted spending spree at the cost of ratepayers.

Parking spot of bother
Jen Kelly and Keith Moor

MELBOURNE City Council reaped almost $50 million in a parking fees and fines bonanza last year -- then jacked up hourly meter fees yet again.

Meter fees jumped from $3 to $3.50 an hour in January, hot on the heels of an increase from $2.40 last July -- a 46 per cent rise in six months.
The council's yearly haul from parking fees has soared 37 per cent in five years, hitting $20.1 million last financial year.

It reaped another $26.6 million from parking fines in 2004-05.

Lord Mayor John So and chief executive David Pitchford ducked for cover yesterday, refusing to speak to the Herald Sun to answer questions about the council's huge parking fines bungle and their knowledge of strict quotas imposed on parking officers.

A State Ombudsman's report reveals Melbourne's 120 parking officers were threatened with the sack if they did not hand out at least 30 fines a day.

It has also emerged the Docklands Authority offered two council employees $1 a year to try to get around the parking ticket blunder.

The council was given legal advice that thousands of parking fines issued in the Docklands area were not enforceable.

On receiving legal advice only Docklands Authority employees could enforce parking tickets, the authority tried to appoint two council employees for $1 a year. Both refused.

Deputy Ombudsman John Taylor said the council was sub-contracted to handle parking enforcement for 28 other organisations.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth law partner Richard Leder said every person who paid a parking fine in the Docklands area between 2002 and 2005 -- plus all those issued in the other 28 areas if the same mistake was made -- would have good grounds to claim their money back.

"And that is irrespective of whether or not they were illegally parked," he said.

"The Ombudsman has found those issuing the tickets were not authorised to do so, or were not legally in a position to enforce them, and therefore there was no necessity for anybody to pay the fines."

Cr So said in a statement anyone who received an improperly issued fine should receive a letter from the council and would get a refund.

The only person the council would allow to speak on its behalf yesterday was Cr Brian Shanahan, the finance committee chairman.

He said there would be a culture change in the parking branch, with less focus on revenue raising, but could not answer whether officers would be told they no longer needed to book 30 cars a day.

Drivers seeking off-street parking have been hit just as hard as those parking on the street.

A controversial State Government $400-a-year parking tax on long-term spaces began on January 1 and will double next year.

KPMG chairman of partners in Victoria Michael Andrew said the company had been hit hard by the $400 annual levy on each of its 250 car spaces -- costing $100,000 a year.

Mr Andrew said the tax was designed to ease congestion, but was having the opposite effect.

"The parking levy is making on-street parking cheaper than off-street parking, so it seems to be counterproductive," Mr Andrew said.

"It's just a blatant revenue grab and there's no justification."

The parking fee jump and soaring petrol prices are blamed by council officers for an expected $4 million hole in the budget this financial year.

It is bracing for a $3 million shortfall in meter fees and a $1 million shortfall for fines as people ditch their cars in favour of public transport.

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