Fears lead to fewer fines

By Shane Scanlan

Melbourne councillors have been told almost $2 million in parking fines was not collected in the last quarter mainly because of “infringement officers requesting to be paired up over safety concerns”.

In a quarterly financial report presented to councillors at the February 19 Future Melbourne Committee meeting, chief financial officer Michael Tenace reported that $1.8 million less than expected was collected from fines in the second quarter of 2018-19.  The figure is 8.4 per cent under budget.

“This unfavourable variance is due mainly to lower number of infringement notices being issued as a result of infringement officers requesting to be paired up over safety concerns,” Mr Tenace said.

But his explanation has been corrected by an official council spokesperson who said: “The decline in parking infringement revenue is due to a number of factors, including the impact of extreme weather (both heat and rain) on our on-road staff in recent months, a small number of officers working in pairs and some vacancies in our team which are being advertised.”

The spokesperson said the general trend for collection of parking fines was down in recent years.

“Revenue generated from parking fines in our municipality has decreased year-on-year for the last four years as a result of fewer cars visiting the city,” the spokesperson said.

However, the council’s August 2018 financial performance reported that $3.7 million (9 per cent) more than expected was collected in 2017-18.

“This favourable variance is due mainly to increased number of parking infringement penalties,” the report said.

The first quarter report for 2018-19 also reported a “minor favourable variance” of $200,000.

The council spokesperson revealed that parking officers were soon likely to be wearing body cameras in an attempt to prevent them being assaulted.

“There was no specific incident that led to a relatively small number of officers asking to be paired-up,” the spokesperson said.

“It is not yet clear whether pairing-up officers has had any impact on reports of assault. The majority of assaults on our officers are verbal assaults.”

“The streets are our officers’ workplace and we do not tolerate any form of abuse encountered by our officers in the course of their work. We work closely with Victoria Police to ensure the reported assaults are investigated.”

“We are currently in consultation with a view to introducing body worn cameras as a proactive measure to support officers’ safety on street. A number of other councils around Australia are using this technology and have reported a significant drop in incidents,” the spokesperson said.

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