The Province of Ontario recently announced they will be partnering with municipalities without pursuing a top-down approach. (a.k.a. not proceeding with regional restructuring).
Instead they will be providing municipalities with the resources to support local decision-making with additional funding of $125 million through 2022-2023. The funding will help municipalities conduct service delivery reviews, implement recommendations from previous reviews and undertake a range of projects such as IT solutions or process improvements. The Municipal Modernization Program is application-based and all applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Well, over time, as municipalities and the needs of their citizens change, some services that have historically been provided may no longer be needed, or perhaps there’s a better way to deliver them. Often times a review of the service is necessary to address budgetary pressures or to improve efficiencies and practice fiscal restraint.
As a result of the recent funding announcement, over the next while many municipalities will be engaging outside professionals to work with them to conduct service delivery reviews. Due to the level of detail and analyses that takes place with these reviews, municipalities often engage a knowledgeable, experienced, objective third-party to guide them through the review and to remove any bias or perceived bias with the evaluation process.
Even though there are many consultants who can provide quality expertise it’s important to have a basic understanding of what a service delivery review is, its purpose and the work and analyses it will encompass.
What is a Service Delivery Review?
A service delivery review is a systematic review of municipal services and programs to determine the most appropriate way to deliver them.
It focuses on setting priorities and where possible, finding new, more cost-effective ways to deliver the services the municipality has determined it wants or needs to continue providing.
A review of local services and programs can be undertaken to improve a current service, meet new service demands and/or maintain a current service by finding efficiencies to reduce the costs of delivering it, for example.
A service delivery review is a rigorous evaluation process that ask questions such as;
- Do we really need to continue to be in this business/service?
- What do citizens expect of the service and what outcomes does council want for it?
- How does current performance compare to expected performance?
- How is demand for the service being managed?
- What are the full costs and benefits of the service?
- Are there alternative/better ways to deliver the service?
There is a role for staff, Council, citizens and other stakeholders during a service delivery review and each should be asked these questions.
Service delivery reviews are labour-intensive, so identifying up front the staff with the range of knowledge and experience and the resources necessary for the review, is extremely important to its success. Typically, this will be the staff who is familiar with the operations of the service or program being evaluated.
The review will look to see if there are internal improvements that can be made or if there’s a need to investigate other methods available to deliver the service/program. For instance could the service be outsourced more cost-effectively than trying to deliver it in-house, could staff receive quality training digitally rather than travelling to classrooms, is there a different bill payment solution to use, etc.?
Council has a critical role in representing the public and consider the well-being of the taxpayers by determining which services the municipality provides, as well as providing direction on the specific outcomes or deliverables they want the review team to achieve.
This is a very brief, high-level look at service delivery reviews. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs has a great online resource, “Making Choices A Guide to Municipal Service Delivery Reviews for Municipal Councillors and Senior Staff”, that sets out a six-stage approach to service delivery reviews.
The full guide was invaluable to me as the first CAO of a newly restructured municipality who was tasked with the responsibility of reviewing the services and programs of each of the five former municipalities and assessing whether they were still relevant in the new municipality and/or if there were better more cost-effective ways to deliver them.
Yes as mentioned, service delivery reviews are labour-intensive, but they are also an extremely interesting challenge – and a process, I thoroughly enjoyed. When you open up your mind to thinking outside the box and adopting new ways of doing things it will save the municipality time and your taxpayers money. And that’s rewarding!
One Final Word
My article just wouldn’t be mine without including a small plug to remind municipalities that over this past year, we have added more professional members who offer a wide variety of amazing new and innovative products and services that can help you achieve those efficiencies directed by the Province.
Why not search muniSERV for the service you’re looking for? You’ll be amazed at some of their offerings!
You may even find that consultant who can help you with your service delivery review!
Susan Shannon is the Founder & Principal, muniSERV & muniJOBS
Susan can be reached at [email protected] 855.477.5095
 A Guide to Service Delivery Review for Municipal Managers, Ministry of Municipal Affairs