London's advisory committees may be in jeopardy
Published Monday, August 24, 2020 6:39PM EDT
LONDON, ONT. -- Most of city hall’s 13 citizen-led advisory committees may be on the chopping block.
“The current model in my mind is not working,” Coun. Shawn Lewis told his colleagues on city hall’s Governance Working Group.
“I don’t understand after five years (on council), what these various advisory committees are doing,” added Coun. Phil Squire.
Made up of citizens appointed by council, the committees offer advice on topics including heritage, transportation, and the environment.
City Hall is only required to have a committee on accessibility and a planning advisory committee. The others face possible merger or elimination.
Council’s 13 advisory committees are:
- London Advisory Committee on Heritage
- Cycling Advisory Committee
- London Housing Advisory Committee
- Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Oppression Advisory Committee
- Animal Welfare Advisory Committee
- Accessibility Advisory Committee
- Advisory Committee on the Environment
- Transportation Advisory Committee
- Agricultural Advisory Committee
- Child Care Advisory Committee
- Environmental and Ecological Planning Advisory Committee
- Trees and Forests Advisory Committee
- Community Safety and Crime Prevention Advisory Committee
In the city budget, the annual cost to have the 13 advisory committees is $60,000 not including additional municipal staff time and support.
Last year, the advisory committees sat for 197 hours, almost as long as the 211 hours that councillors sat in their standing committees.
“They’re eating up almost as much resources as the publicly elected officials,” says Coun. Lewis. “There’s a real question about the value we’re getting out of the current structure.”
But some volunteers disagree with that evaluation.
“If there are volunteers willing to make a better city, then the advisory committee structure makes a lot of sense.” says Jamieson Roberts, Chair of the Cycling Advisory Committee.
Roberts supports a review to find efficiencies, but argues city council needs to consider the cost of paying for expert advice if the volunteer committees are eliminated.
“We’re expert volunteers,” says Roberts. “We are essentially providing free volunteer consultation to the city that would cost a large chunk of money.”
The Governance Working Group will discuss the advisory committees and some alternative methods to collect public feedback at its next meeting.
Lewis says other cities survey a diverse pool of residents that reflect local demographics.
“Sending out a survey to 1,000 or 2,000 or 5,000 people is going to be a much more efficient way to gauge public input on a particular project than going through this formalized committee structure,” he says.
Council is expected to make a decision on advisory models before the end of the year.