Murray Suggests End To Core Services Review

By Mike Archer. Abbotsford’s new City Manager is advising Abbotsford Council to abandon the Core Services Review in favour of a different approach.

Frank Pizzuto and senior staff had so misused the process in their own interests that Murray is probably wise to suggest we start over.

In his analysis City Manager George Murray says that, having been through some core service reviews, he and some other municipal governments which have gone through them have some doubts about the actual return on investment in the reviews.

Well this must be the first time since amalgamation in 1995 that a senior member of City staff in Abbotsford was concerned about actual return on investment.

If only George had been here when current and former senior staff thought that sinking close to half a billion in long term costs and debt into Plan A, a 7,000 seat hockey rink, the virtual purchase of a professional hockey team and a near-miss expenditure of $300,000,000 to solve a water crisis which was revealed to be a fiction created by senior staff’s inability to read or properly create graphs.

That Murray’s first major act in his new job working for Abbotsford taxpayers is to recommend we dispense with a review of ways in which we could save money at City Hall is disconcerting but, it is important, especially at this juncture, to have some faith in Mr Murray’s judgement.

One of the unfortunate truths about public sector change is that, without very strong political will and leadership, it either proceeds at such a slow pace that nothing gets done or those charged with fixing things, since they are part of the problem, simply choose not to act in the public interest and put their own careers, reputations and livelihoods above those of their friends and neighbours.

We’ve seen enough of that at the top echelons of Abbotsford’s bureaucracy over the last decade to last us a generation or two. In fact it will take that amount of time to pay the bills for the incompetence and intransigence we’ve witnessed on major issues from the White elephant on Kings Rd to the professional hockey team we might as well own for all the money we’re losing while keeping the owners comfortable.

If George Murray sees a better way than the Core Services Review, which, under Frank Pizzuto’s management had completely stalled anyway, then we should trust in his judgement and the judgement of those who hired until and unless he proves us wrong.

He has told council he can find $150,000 of the budgeted $200,000 in savings through other, methods which he says are more likely to succeed.

Murray has advised that the City:

  • Continue the development of a long-term financial planning process and financial model to identify the fiscal implications of current program and service plans and asset inventories
  • With particular services which Council is pretty sure the City will continue to offer a service efficiency review is being suggested instead of a full core service review. Depending on the success of the process Council retains the option of moving to a full core services review.

Abbotsford taxpayers are growing weary of excuses for the miserable shape of our finances and the high cost of a municipal government which offers little in return.

George Murray has a lot of pressure on his shoulders after the failed tenure of his predecessor Frank Pizzuto. Though the decision to abandon the core services review sounds ominous, Murray’s reasons and his analysis of the situation we face offer good reasons to follow him down this path. Let’s see where it leads us.

He has enough community and council members watching his every move anticipating behaviours of which we have grown very tired that he isn’t likely to be allowed to provide us with more of the same. If he is right it may be the beginning of a completely new and sensible approach to municipal governance in Abbotsford.

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