Proposed budget will make the poor, poorer

Aysha Davids, chairperson of the Village Heights Steering Committee.

Community organisations have major reservations aboutMayorPatricia de Lille’s proposed budget for 2018/19 which includes a 26.9% increase for water and a R5 billion cash injection into informal settlements, water and waste services.

The Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance (GCTCA )said they would “object to the general increase”, while the steering committee of Village Heights said the “proposed budget reflects how the poor will get poorer due to increased water tariffs and municipality bills.

Ms De Lille urged residents to have their say on the proposed budget and submit comments by Friday May 4.

Philip Bam, chairperson of the GCTCA , said : “The rates increase proposed is above the inflation rate which will cause financial hardships to the poorer house owner. We are concerned that the general valuation of properties have been brought forward by two years.”

He said the increased valuation will lead to increase in rates payable which is a “double whammy”.

A further concern is the increase in water tariffs so soon after the massive increases during the water -saving crisis.

“We note that the tariffs are way above that of Johannesburg and other municipalities. We are also concerned about the failure by the City to spend all its capital budget for which the interest and redemption is already being collected from the ratepayer.

“If the City does not have the capacity to spend its capital budget, these projects should not be budgeted as the capital loans require to be paid back and of course collected from the ratepayer,” said Mr Bam.

Aysha Davids, chairperson of Village Heights steering committee, said she “wondered if that budget was already approved as so many times in the past the City of Cape Town put a “proposed” budget forward but then “it’s already implemented.”

She said her main concern was that it was not clear how money allocated for informal settlements would be used in their area. She said the City needs to listen to the voices of the community before they make decisions. “Otherwise the poor people will never benefit.”

Mr Bam said it was the opinion of GCTCA that instead of increasing rates to meet its budget, the City should consider some serious cutbacks on expenditure.
“R48 million will be saved if the number of councillors are cut by 50%. We believe that under the present financial constraints, performance bonuses for top officials should be reconsidered.”

This is a municipality, a service organisation and not much can be done by managers to make it function better, he said.

“We believe that the salaries paid to top officials are quite reasonable and don’t need to be augmented by extra bonuses.
The introduction of mini mayors places an extra financial burden on the purse of the City and should be scrapped as a cost-saving measure.”

Mr Bam said although, the remuneration of public office holders are determined elsewhere, there is no compulsion on the City to pay the maximum laid down.

”Millions could be saved if the City reviews its remuneration and perks to Mayco members and sub-council chairs.

“These are some of the areas where council can save. Also more efficiency will save much-needed funds.

It is common knowledge that ratepayers have serious problems with the billing for water and electricity.

“We believe it is perhaps opportune for the City to be going back to the budget drawing board, sharpen the pencils and look more for ways of protecting the poor. We fear that soon it will become prohibitive to own the little house that people struggled their entire life to acquire as shelter for their families if this budget is accepted,” said Mr Bam.