Wells frustrated: Gives up on his Norfolk staff hiring freeze

By David Judd

JOHN Wells has abandoned his long-time quest to freeze the number of Norfolk County staff.
For the last eight years, Norfolk has regularly sought to hold the line against adding new county employees.
And each year the county has failed.
County council on average has approved four new staff positions each year.
In 2010, Norfolk had 720 staff positions.
Today it has 752.
It’s a pet peeve for Coun. Wells.
Often at budget time in January, Coun. Wells has called on county council to impose hiring freezes to help keep a lid on property taxes.
Council has agreed — then later hired more staff.
Last Tuesday Coun. Wells, frustrated by another round of hiring, threw in the towel.
He called on council to lift this year’s hiring freeze because it hasn’t worked.
Coun. Wells said he had run out of excuses to explain how council keeps hiring despite a freeze.
“We should not continue to embarrass ourselves,” he told councillors.
“We are never able to say ‘no’ and mean ‘no.’”
Coun. Wells has wanted Norfolk to end a year with the same number of employees that it had at the beginning of the year.
Exceptions would be new hires demanded by the provincial or federal governments.
But Coun. Wells’ wish has never come true.
The county’s number of jobs has grown every year.
Coun. Wells compared Norfolk County to Ontario’s school system, which has hired more teachers only to see students’ scores fall on standard tests.
He said the county has hired more staff and spent millions of dollars on computer systems but can’t keep up.
In July, in response to a building boom, council approved three new positions to help process planning applications and building permits.
That same month, council agreed to hire a full-time staff lawyer to save money on legal advice.
Council hasn’t looked at rearranging staff to match needs, Coun. Wells said in an interview.
“The easiest thing is always to ask for more rather than dealing with what you have,” he said.
Coun. Wells failed last Tuesday to get enough councillors’ support to discuss lifting the hiring freeze.
The freeze stays in effect for the rest of this year.
Coun. Wells won’t seek to renew the freeze for 2018.
“Council has decided to keep the hiring freeze in place and keep hiring,” he said.

Posted: October 4, 2017

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