26 September 2023

Ombudsman calls time of parking fines

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Thousands of parking fines estimated to be worth more than $20 million are to be refunded after the Victorian Ombudsman found that three local councils had acted contrary to the law in the outsourcing of parking fine reviews.

The Ombudsman, Deborah Glass tabled her Investigation into three councils’ outsourcing of parking fine internal reviews in Parliament last week which found that three councils had withheld important information from affected motorists and the public.

Ms Glass said Glen Eira, Port Phillip and Stonnington councils had acted contrary to law by outsourcing parking fine reviews to a private contractor.

“The legal issues have not been tested in court, so I cannot definitely determine the lawfulness of the councils’ actions,” Ms Glass said.

“But I can express my opinion, which is that the three councils acted contrary to law,” she said.

“A law, introduced in 2006, strongly suggests reviews must be decided by the council that issued the fine.”

Ms Glass said Glen Eira Council had outsourced its decision making to a contractor for 10 years since the 2006 law change.

“Port Phillip Council and Stonnington Council in effect rubber-stamped the contractor’s recommendations during a similar time period,” she said.

“The speed with which recommendations were accepted gave no hint of independent assessment.”

Ms Glass said that after receiving legal advice in 2016 and 2017, the councils changed their internal review practices to bring their decision making in-house.

She said her investigation raised some fundamental issues about accountability and transparency.

She said the councils disagreed with her findings; however all have agreed to refund the affected motorists.

Ms Glass said the councils had estimated the cost of refunding fines: Port Phillip with over 87,00 affected fines, $8.8 million; Stonnington with over 81,000 affected fines, $6.9 million; and Glen Eira with more than 36,000 affected fines, $3.67 million.

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