Saturday, February 24, 2024

Cut Staff to Contract Out, Or Cancel Contracted Services, Which is it?

By Stephen Vance, Editor

If I was a member of Meaford’s council, I would be scratching my head with confusion at the moment, and I would bet that those councillors who are paying attention are confused indeed.

The source of the confusion?

It occurred to me recently that many of the same people who argue that Meaford should be making cuts to staff and contracting out as many services as possible to the private sector, are the very same people who have also been complaining about the tourism contract with Meaford’s Chamber of Commerce.

Which is it?

Cut staff and contract out, or cancel outsourced contracts and bring those tasks in-house which will mean a requirement of some level of staff time, and quite possibly necessitate the hiring of an additional staff member?

The contract with the Chamber was the result of a tender process in which bids were sought for providing tourism services and operation of the tourist information apple on Sykes Street. The Chamber was the successful bidder, though at the time at least two members of council were less than impressed with the process and the service provider selected. Nevertheless Meaford’s Chamber of Commerce successfully bid on the contract, and as far as anyone is aware, there haven’t seemed to be any complaints about the service provided.

There have been however, some members of our community that have complained about the $50,000 being paid to the Chamber annually, and two members of council have been quite public with their disapproval of the Chamber providing Meaford’s tourism services.

Whether the Chamber should be providing tourism services for the municipality could certainly be debated.

Some would argue that a Chamber of Commerce loses it’s ability to lobby for local business at council when they also have their hand out asking for municipal fee for service contracts. Others would argue that the Chamber has done a fantastic job of providing a service which would likely cost more if it was carried out by municipal staff.

Should the Chamber have lost this contract that they had agreed to carry out until the end of next year?

I really see it as a wash. I don’t see any benefit to the municipality from a financial perspective, though I would imagine the most recent financial blow to the Chamber may be the proverbial final straw in the financial health of the Chamber.

What bothers me most though, is that the same people who shake their fingers at council for having a perceived bloated staff that could be slashed in favour of contracting services with the private sector, while at the same time shaking another finger at council for “giving” the Chamber $50,000 each year.

I can understand and appreciate the arguments made by those who feel staff could be slashed, and many services could be contracted out. I don’t agree with that approach, but an argument can be made for such a strategy.

I can understand and appreciate those who would be comfortable with all possible services being provided by government.

I also understand and appreciate the view of those who feel that there are some services that shouldn’t ever be contracted to the private sector, though there are some for which the option should at least be explored.

But you can’t have it both ways. Residents can’t lambaste council over staffing levels, and beg for council to contract-out services because it would reduce staff and save money, while at the same time demanding that the municipality stop forking over money to the Chamber for the purposes of providing a contracted service.

Those who have been demanding staff cuts and tax decreases in Meaford should be saddened that one of the few municipal functions that is actually contracted out to the private sector has been cancelled without cause and those services will now be brought under the municipal umbrella.

Though I suppose that if you both object to the size of municipal staff, and at the same time oppose a contract for service with the private sector, you will never be on the losing team.

Politicians are often heard to say that you can’t please everyone. Trouble is, when everybody is against everything, it makes it impossible to please anyone.

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