More Funding for an Efficiency Review

The County recently received funding from the Province to find efficiencies in the multiple Fire Departments in the County (see report in link below) and at the Committee of the Whole meeting on 9 March 2020, Town Clerk Brent Larmer announced that the Town itself had received a grant of $86,496 from the Province to do a review of “service delivery” so as to achieve cost savings and efficiencies.  Brent’s memo to Council said that “This Provincial program [Ontario’s new Municipal Modernization Program] is intended to help municipalities become more efficient and modernize service delivery while protecting front line jobs.”  The report must be made available to the public by September 18, 2020.  The work will be done by the current Town auditor, KPMG, since they are familiar with the Town’s operations and there is insufficient time to call for quotes.

Brent Larmer
Brent Larmer

Councillors were concerned about the single sourcing but since they are the long time Town auditor, KPMG is uniquely qualified to do the work and is a reputable company with the requisite skills.  Also, since many Ontario Municipalities will be looking for qualified reviewers in the same time frame, it would be difficult to get sensible quotes in the time available – after all, everyone knows how much money has been provided.  In the end the project was approved.

It is expected that KPMG will:

“….provide an analysis of the key operations of the municipality’s departments and their services and programs, examining trends over time and contrasting comparator municipalities of similar size and service levels. This comparison will identify opportunities for improvement that will achieve greater efficiency in municipal operations, reduce operating costs and establish long term sustainability. The review will be conducted through a process that is factual, analytical and transparent.”

It’s hard to see how you can increase efficiency whilst protecting jobs   Given that premise, it seems to me that the alternatives are an increase in the services provided for the same cost or staff reductions which rely on a mix of natural turnover plus re-assignment of jobs.  Perhaps another option is to do more work in house instead of using consultants. 

See Expression of Interest document attached to Brent’s memo (in the link below) for more detail on what exactly should be reviewed.

Separately, the Town plans  “a survey of citizens and ratepayers and other public engagement activities to provide additional perspective on the Town’s Service Delivery.”

In any event, the report in September should be interesting.


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Mrs. Anonymous
4 years ago

KPMG has a recent history of providing what ever opinion the government of the day seeks. Recall KPMG’s opinion given to the Ontario Liberal government regarding Ontario Fair Hydro Plan. Their only caveat was that they receive protection from “legal liability as a condition of providing that opinion”. (Globe and Mail April 2019)

Canuck Patriot
Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
4 years ago

The province looked at the amalgamation of Metro Toronto in 1996. To help make a decision, it hired KPMG Consulting to prepare a report on the savings and costs of amalgamation.

Based on the actual experience of amalgamation vs. the annual savings KPMG projected in its report which never materialized, Council should select an independent consultant who currently is not involved in any way with the Town and has never been a proponent of amalgamation.

Reply to  Canuck Patriot
4 years ago

Canuck Patriot – Sitting at the negotiation table with a front line view at amalgamation – amalgamation got hijacked. The unions representing outside workers took over – demanding raises, job placement preference, hiring by seniority start, not best qualitifed and ganged against Metro where amalgamation was meant to be organizing under one umbrella – not Toronto, North York, East York, York and Etobicoke. Plans of mice and men gone wrong. So you have it today – a non-amalgamation.

4 years ago

If I knew how to scan and post on this site I would gladly share some factual correspondence
that came from Planning and Engineering to developers to Quote
” The Town does not have Sewer Capacity data . Its up to the proponent to demonstrate that down stream capacity of existing Town sewers is Adequate for the proposed development ”

Every other town & community around us know these facts
do you know how many projects are on Hold ??? or can’t afford to proceed
with out Infrastructure

Bill Prawecki
4 years ago

There are opportunities in general and not just related to the fire depts …. I know that it will be hard to swallow but if we set aside our differences and quarrels between Port Hope and Cobourg the efficiencies would be more apparent if both were amalgamated Into one …. and we only had one council, one fire dept, one police department , one public works dept ….. what a novel idea eh! I know that I will be beaten up for saying this on this social media primarily by anonymous sources but …..

Reply to  Bill Prawecki
4 years ago

Just like Fort William and Port Arthur…now we have to come up with a new name for the twin towns.

Reply to  cornbread
4 years ago

How about….’Port Cobourg’!
I also agree with ‘perplexed’ that our ‘poop plant’ needs to be upgraded!! I’m sure it is working at capacity? Maybe we need a new sewage treatment plant built somewhere along the shores of the lake, half way between Cobourg and Port Hope? Then we could run a line west, for all of us in the ‘Pebble Beach’ area, so we might get off our septic tanks? Just a thought. It would also help service the ‘ever growing’ New Amherst sub division!

Reply to  Ken
4 years ago

Weren’t the residents of Pebble Beach given the opportunity to have sanitary sewers installed when the water system was replaced?
I thought the residents said “no” to sanitary sewers?

Reply to  cornbread
4 years ago

You know the two towns still hate each other

Reply to  cornbread
4 years ago

How about we reclaim an old name formerly used by a local settlement? Toronto.

Paul Pagnuelo
Reply to  Bill Prawecki
4 years ago

I wouldn’t be in too much of a rush to applaud amalgamation. I was involved personally in the Victoria County amalgamation and was heavily involved in the Toronto amalgamation. I’ve done lots of research on the subject and here’s just a small sampling of what I found:

Fairer taxation means three things:
Not paying for services you don’t get.
Not paying for services you don’t want.
Not paying more for services than you have to (i.e. best value; the `yellow pages’ test).

Amalgamation in Victoria County was used as a means of re-allocating the tax burden. It resulted in taxpayers in efficient, lower-tax municipalities (mainly rural) subsidizing taxpayers in inefficient, higher-tax municipalities (mainly urban).

The mega city structure uses false economies of scale to promise illusory lower costs that in practice end up being more expensive.

Taxpayers in a lower tier municipality should not be responsible for funding services that are unique to another lower tier municipality.

The solution to reducing the costs of municipal government, lower property taxes and tax fairness won’t be found in continuing with a structure that’s more inefficient than the one it replaced.

Amalgamated mega cities have been proven to be high cost solutions which breed inefficiency and deteriorating levels of service.

While I don’t dispute that some savings can be achieved in specific areas as a result of amalgamation, these savings are usually not sustainable and are more than offset by higher costs in other areas as a result of larger government.

The empirical evidence worldwide is that a smaller number of governments doesn’t yield less government, lower costs and fairer taxation. In fact, it produces the exact opposite effect – bigger government, more spending, higher taxes, and tax inequity.

Reply to  Paul Pagnuelo
4 years ago

Thanks Paul. Well articulated. And some years ago a friend, a firefighter in the Toronto amalgamated region, described impacts to morale and service delivery including gaps in knowledge of their service areas when Toronto area municipalities underwent amalgamation. Northumberland is smaller in population and I understood that multi-service agreements, the protocol for helping out other departments when needed, have been used successfully for many years. The question I have is about response to emergencies dealing with dangerous goods that may pass through our community by rail or road.

4 years ago

So, find efficiencies, while protecting front line jobs?
Who wrote this request for proposal, the Cobourg firefighters union?

Reply to  Leweez
4 years ago

Great come back— but you are absolutely correct
This sort of sounds like the Mayors promise to remove Red Tape in the Planning Dept
in an effort to expedite the whole process and create affordable housing .
Instead it turns out the planning dept. & engineering dept. has been hiding the fact
Cobourg has a severe deficiency in sanitary sewer line Capacity thus they are killing development projects and burdening land owners that were led to believe that their properties
had services at the lot line .
You Can’t have affordable housing if you don’t start with affordable serviced land
Where has the town been spending the taxes certainly not in infrastructure and services

Reply to  perplexed
4 years ago

You only have to look at the decision to use infrastructure money and grants to build the money pit CCC instead of investing in actual infrastructure to be able to properly service growth.