Mayor Sutcliffe to begin work on promised line-by-line audit this week

City council just passed its 2023 budget last week, but work is set to begin on a major mayoral campaign promise ahead of the 2024 budget.

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe promised a line-by-line audit of city spending in a bid to find money that could be spent elsewhere.

He told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s CFRA Live with Andrew Pinsent this weekend that he intends to star the process this week.

“We’re starting, as soon as Monday, we’re starting a process of doing a strategic review of all city services and that’s going to be an important line-by-line review of the budget,” he said. “The goal there is to find some savings in some areas and to figure out ways that we can do things better and more efficiently so that we can free up some money to invest in the priorities that we establish.”

Sutcliffe said the review would take place alongside a process to determine what council’s priorities are for the 2022-26 term.

“I believe we need to zero in on two or three priorities, not have 20 or 30 priorities because then you don’t have any priorities, so we’ve got to do that work to establish what those priorities are,” he said.

The line-by-line review process would involve a working group that consists of the mayor, the chair of the audit committee—in this case, Coun. Cathy Curry—and a councillor-at-large.

“We’re going to look at it from a value for money perspective, we’re going to look at all the city services we deliver and make sure that we’re delivering them effectively and they’re having the greatest impact for residents,” Sutcliffe said. “I’m hopeful that that will yield not just some savings but the potential to deliver services more effectively and more powerfully for residents and that we’ll also be able, as a result of that, to reinvest in the areas of priority.”

Curry said she wants to see every possible review performed, but added that the working group’s recommendations would still need to be approved by committees and council.

“A working group can recommend whatever it wants; it will be up to the committees to decide what to do with it,” she told councillors. “We’re going line by line, programs and services, all of them; we’re liaising with the auditor general. The working group has no power or authority; it’s just a group doing work.”

During the campaign, Sutcliffe said his goal was to find savings equal to one per cent of the budget. He’s previously suggested finding savings through eliminating vacant non-essential jobs, attrition of non-essential staff, and reducing work with consultants and other external services and through the use of technology.

“It’s not an exercise in cost-cutting,” he told CFRA. “It’s an exercise in unlocking savings so that we have more money to invest in the most important areas.”

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