Local Government Restructure Planning & Process
When a community considers restructuring its governance and/or the delivery of services, the process must account for the unique characteristics and issues in that community, while meeting the legislative requirements for the type of change that might address those issues.
Local governments have broad authority to customize decision-making and services to fit community needs. Issues that might appear to require systemic change can often be addressed within the existing local government structure. Restructures can also be lengthy and complex processes, which may cause division and have other impacts both inside and outside the community.
As such, restructuring is guided by the following principles:
- The process is initiated and supported by the elected local government representatives
- Understanding the problem precedes developing a solution
- All sectors of the community, including First Nations and other local governments, need to be involved in the discussion
- Changes emerging from the process should be supported by the elected local government representatives
- For municipal restructure, the electorate should be well-informed on the implications of change before making a decision
The B.C. government has the authority to establish and change local government structures (for example, improvement district to municipality) on advice from the minister of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing based in part on the following principles:
- Involvement in a restructuring process when, in general, invited to do so
- Offering helpful, informative and generous advice without interfering in a locally initiated and sustained process
- Acting as a broker, creating a bridge between the community, the local government and provincial ministries
- Assisting a community in determining whether it needs to restructure and what form that restructure will take.
Based on the restructure principles, the nature of the proposed restructure and on community circumstances, the restructure process can take many forms. While a specific process may vary, most processes follow these six phases:
- Preliminary exploration - responding to signals from the community, local governments make their first contact with the Ministry. The Ministry evaluates the local context and provides general information on the restructuring process.
- Process design - if the Minister sanctions the study process, the Ministry assists the local government with developing terms of reference and restructure planning grants to assist with hiring a consultant with expertise in local governance, services and finance to undertake a study.
- Process initiation - the local government creates an oversight body and hires a consultant. The study is then conducted with the goal of obtaining information on the impact of restructuring on fiscal, political representation, and service delivery issues.
- Community engagement - the study findings are shared with the community and, based on the results and public input, a recommendation is made on proceeding to restructure decision.
- Decision and implementation - local (elector and/or local government) and Provincial decisions are made on whether to restructure, and the necessary documents developed to give the restructure legal effect (bylaw, Cabinet Order, Letters Patent) and implemented.
- The local government(s) adapt to the new structure, which may involve transition or hiring of new staff, reconfiguring service delivery, and revision of local bylaws and community plans. The Ministry may provide some financial assistance with this transition.
Restructure Planning Grants
Restructure planning grants support municipal and regional district processes by contributing to the independent, credible examination of the impacts of restructure and related public consultations.