Attention City Hall staff: post your savings tips here!

Post by Mike Klassen in


tell us your tips!

We recently posted's 10 FREE tips for saving $$ at City Hall. We think we're just scratching the surface with ten, and by only focusing on Vancouver. One of our suggestions was that City Hall erect some kind of e-bulletin board for staff to share their ideas on how to cut 2% of discretionary spending out of their annual budgets without serious implications for services.

We know these things take some time to get set up. After all, the lumbering City of Vancouver communications department managed by Laurie Best only managed to post six city service announcements in January (somehow the political communications out of the Mayor's office now has free access to the City's communications system, almost matching Best's output - go figure). We figured why not try to save cities the cost -- and post it ourselves!

So is making this page a permanent home for comments from City staff from all cities across Canada on their ideas. Just type and it will always take you here. We respect the privacy of all who post here, so all anonymous comments will remain so. Post your ideas, and help to keep taxes under control in your city!


Who pays for the PR Firm and all the Communications staff Vision has kept on since taking office? That should be coming out of Vision's coffers, not the City's.

One area involving some of the biggest funds (capital expenditures), could provide large costs-savings.

Many projects (roads, underground services, etc), requiring private engineering firms to provide cost estimates to City staff for approval are significantly inflated. Not tens of thousands but if possible hundreds of thousnds. I work in an allied industry and at team meetings and follow-up emails, I've seen dollar figures bumped up more than generous on the notion that staff may bargain back with justified argument to arrive at fair value. They 'may.'

Unfortunately, staff have very little knowledge of private material and labour costs and have little capability to question and 'refine' the amounts that are provided.

Resultingly, engineering staff usually accept the amounts given to them, because most would embarass and weaken themselves if they did question, and reveal the extent of what they don't know. In terms of labour costs, it seems the only source of numbers they do have is projects from internal works crews, where there is an astonishing overpayment for the work they do. Note: the quality isn't that much lower, but the time that city crews log to complete a piece of work is unbelievable; no private company could be able to tolerate that and exist financially. There is simply little accountability or oversight for the city crews and no incentive for the engineer managers to do so. We were once provided by city engineers the internal crew costs to remove a concrete stairway and it came in around $122,000, while the firms on our project team said there's no way it could have consumed more than about $50k, and there was no site contamination to deal with.

Getting back to the incoming quote problem, this isn't something that staff training will solve, as that training is a snapshot and vanishes.

For those that don't know the system, it must be mentioned that the competitive bid process (used on all big-ticket projects), can reduce costs, but the situations I've seen with gross overinflation,involve project changes and re-designs -after- a tender has been awarded, as well as those smaller, sole-source projects in which staff can simply call up a firm and say "just do it, and send invoices to so-and-so."

The only solution would be for the city to establish some capacity for 2 or 3 private, independant quantity surveying firms - which have proven their reliability and ability to challenge inflated estimates from private engineers.

We constantly see many suggestions for the city - usually for visible things; the types of envelopes they use, the choice of snow tires, etc. - but those cost-savings amount to small sums in a billion dollar a year municipality.

The sums I've seen are in the hundreds of thousands. Whole service programs will never be implemented because of this.

Check out!

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