Aggressive marketing campaigns mark very different campaign for public dollars in city budget

A new trend is emerging as London’s public agencies, boards, and commissions vie for your money, and London city councillors set the tax rate for 2024.

Some have taken up marketing campaigns to gain your support as they lobby for public funding.

Case in point, new posters can be seen on London Transit buses asking customers to support the bid for more money. They read, “no improvements. No new service. More crowding. Longer waits…. Without investment. Tell your councillor to support transit growth now!”

They come complete with a QR code that leads to a web page with a warning that, “Transit Improvements are at Stake.”

It’s use of public property to lobby for more public funding. But they’re not the only ones in the marketing game.

“The board’s proposed four year budget is our plan for a safer city now,” said London Police Services Board Chair Ali Chahbar at a news conference Wednesday. “A Safer City Now” is the slogan the LPS has been using in its messaging, and the board has repeated during public engagements to gain support for its budget ask.

Municipal governance expert Gord Hume, a former London City Controller and former chair of the London Police Services Board, says such campaigns are not at all inappropriate. Hume says while this type of marketing may seem unusual for public bodies, he says nowadays they need every means at their disposal to cut through the barrage of information.

“They’re in a competitive situation,” explained Hume. “They’re trying to make a reasonable case to improve their service. When you’re reaching out to your audience, to your public, and that’s what they’re doing, you want to do it efficiently and effectively, and with a little bit of flair,” he said.

The London Police Services Board is seeking $672 million in its 2024 budget. The London Transit Commission is asking for $42 million in service enhancements.

London City councillor Sam Trosow says this new trend speaks to the fierce competition for limited public dollars.

“I’d really like to see us go back to the Strategic Plan and remind ourselves that we have a variety of different areas of focus,” said Trosow. “And I want to make sure that when we’re done with this budget process we spread out the wealth that we have in this city. I don’t see that happening right now, and I see some very divisive things going on,” he said.

London rate-payers may be digging a lot deeper no matter what. Right now the budget increase sits at 8.6 per cent. And the mayor warns there is not a lot of room to manoeuvre.

“The police budget is one of those ones that there are other recourses the police board has, should we not give them the full amount,” explained Mayor Josh Morgan. “Health unit, land ambulance, conservation authorities and police all have mechanisms at their disposal to simply just bill us.”

Council budget deliberations resume Thursday. 

 

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