Compliance is for everybody

GIVEN the perception held by some that the city’s compliance officers display an inflexible attitude when issuing fines to motorists, the fact that some of the officers appear to be flouting those rules when parking their own vehicles displays a surprising lack of tact.

The council consistently denies requiring its compliance officers to meet quotas, but it was revealed last year that the organisation budgets on earning $220,000 a year for each of its 12 officers.

This pressure to raise funds has been alleged by some to lie behind the stern reputation of the compliance department.

The letters column and website of this newspaper commonly carry complaints from readers aggrieved about parking fines and the alleged lack of latitude granted by the council.

With that background, one might have supposed that the compliance officers themselves would have been instructed to be at special pains at all times to avoid the appearance of contravening the rules they are expected to enforce on others.

Instead, compliance vehicles have been repeatedly photographed parked contrary to clearly displayed signs and notices.

Apparently displaced from Burwood Street by preliminary work for the proposed legal precinct, some council vehicles have settled on newly treeless Laman Street – now one of the few meter-free parking opportunities in the city.

The inconvenience for these displaced council staff is undoubtedly significant, but it is no worse than inconvenience suffered by many other motorists.

It is often inconvenient, for example, to find a parking space at a major sporting event. It can be inconvenient trying to load and unload passengers for an event at the Civic Theatre when all available nearby parking spaces are already taken. Delays caused by late-running doctors are inconvenient, as are parking shortages near banks and hospitals.

Few, if any, of these inconveniences appear to merit much leniency in the eyes of Newcastle City Council when it comes to enforcing rules and issuing fines.

By the same token, the city’s compliance officers shouldn’t expect to be exempt from those rules when they find themselves inconvenienced.

Some people might consider such an expectation to appear arrogant – hardly a look that Newcastle City Council would want to cultivate.

IT’S always troubling when businesses talk of laying off staff, especially when economic circumstances are tight and showing signs of getting tighter.

The prospect of job losses at Volgren’s Tomago bus-building plant carries an extra disturbing dimension in that some appear to be suggesting some blame on the part of the state government.

It is hinted that a slowdown in government orders – contrary to earlier assurances – is behind the job cuts.

The government says it is committed to providing value for money when buying buses. It would be interesting to know whether that means it plans to import buses, rather than build them here.

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