Toronto council takes back Premier's promised savings with staffing budget vote

It was last summer that the Premier promised there would be expected savings of $25 million through his move to slash the size of Toronto city council.

Doug Ford claimed reducing the number of councillors by more than 40 percent would make the business of decision-making at city hall more efficient.

On Wednesday, Toronto's 25 city councillors were joined by the Mayor in voting to double the staffing budgets for individual members and significantly increase the budgets allocated to the day-to-day running of their offices.

The motion passed by a vote of 18-8.

It means that each councillor will be allowed to spend up to $482,000 yearly on office salaries, excluding their own.

As of this term, 25 city councillors have a combined office salary spending limit of about $12 million.

In the last term, it was a total budget of roughly $10.5 million split among 44 councillors.

Annual budgets for things like rent, supplies, and printing were increased from $34,000 to $50,000.

Before Wednesday's vote, the typical compliment of office staff in a Toronto councillor's office included an executive assistant, along with two employees who are dedicated to constituent matters.

The argument from city councillors like Shelley Carroll is that councillors need to hire help in order to maintain the level of service they provide and to keep on top of all the extra work they've been handed.

After the boundaries were redrawn by Premier Ford's legislation, most of Toronto's wards have increased in size and many have doubled in population.

Carroll pointed out that councillors do not have to spend up to the budget maximum.

Etobicoke councillor Stephen Holyday was one of the 8 members who voted against the motion.

He proposed a smaller office staff budget increase and argued that its a matter council should re-examine once a councillors have a clearer picture of how much extra work they have on their plate.