A new report recommends a dramatic overhaul of London’s public advisory committees.
If approved the number of public volunteer committees in the city will be reduced from 14 to nine.
The staff report to the Governance Working Group calls for the changes to implemented in July 2021.
If approved, the report suggests having fewer committees would result in “a more meaningful and collaborative approach to citizen engagement.”
The plan to reduce the committees to nine, will see three of them being re-classified as ‘expert panels.’ The panels would then provide advice to municipal leaders.
Among the bodies potentially impacted by the changes, the London Housing Advisory Committee, the Advisory Committee on the Environment and the Cycling Advisory Committee, among others.
While some advisory committee leaders may view the reduction of committees as a move to limit public voices, city Councillor Shawn Lewis disagrees.
“It’s 150 appointees across the entire city. There’s not a lot of engagement with the community. They sit in a committee room in a very formalized structure. What I want to see, is an opportunity for a broader citizen engagement.”
He says the advisory committees are inefficient and taking up as much staff time as elected bodies are.
But the chair of the Cycling Advisory Committee, Jamieson Roberts, sees things a bit differently.
“Having a specific committee gives a lot of breath and knowledge,” he stated to CTV News in a telephone interview.
While Roberts sees pros and cons to merging and reducing committees, he is greatly concerned the unpaid professionals attracted to the current structure might shy away.
“It certainly diminishes the number of experts brought to the table.”
Further, in the case of his own committee, Roberts questions if the each cause will become fragmented.
Pointing to the report’s recommendation that his group should be folded into a general transportation committee, Roberts wonders if cycling will be lost at the table.
“After all, much of what London does is automotive-based.”
In its conclusion, the report states the document, “is just the first step, of potentially many, to modernize the advisory committee structure."