RATEPAYER groups claimed a small victory by the Ndlambe council's reduction of a rates and service charge increase to 9% at the final budget meeting last week.
After defending a 12% increase in his budget speech a month ago, in spite of numerous written objections, mayor Sipho Tandani surprised many by announcing the increase had been reduced to 9% for the 2012/2013 budget.
Tandani said this followed "sleepless nights” and hours of consultation with the municipal manager and directors on how to soften the budget increase.
As well as rates, the increase on water, sewerage and refuse will also be 9%. The electricity increase remains at 11.03%. The environmental levy will be reduced to R20 a month, excluding VAT.
"I am aware the (9%) increase is still higher than the guidelines issued by national Treasury, but I have to ensure the municipality re-introduces its capital budget from internal funds to procure the much needed plant and equipment that will improve on the services we currently render,” Tandani said.
The DA applauded in council and caucus leader Ross Purdon said he wanted to be first to shake the mayor's hand when Tandani announced the revised increase.
Port Alfred Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Tim Cockbain welcomed the news but said he would "like to see the 9 upside down”.
"I think a lot of work went into getting that done by the ratepayer groups and the opposition,” he said.
"The mayor's speech was very positive but I'm hoping he will stick to his plan to pull things right and get people working – increasing efficiency.”
Simon Oliver, the chairman of the Kenton-on-Sea Ratepayers Association, agreed that he wanted to see the mayor "walk the talk”.
"I'm happy that it's come down from 12% to 9%, but productivity is even more important than a reduction in rates,” Oliver said.
"We want service delivery, and at the moment the budget is not primarily for service delivery, it's providing for all kinds of other things, like cars for directors.
"We don't have equipment and staff are not doing their jobs.”
Ndlambe Action Group chairman Derek Victor said his first question was, "Where did the savings come from?”
"I found they came from the finance directorate – an amount of R2,2-million budgeted for debt collection. Now debt collection will have to be purely internal,” he said.
"The reduction was brought about by the passion and extent of those who objected. But it's still not enough. Nine percent is going to hurt our community. Because of that it's hard to view this as a step in the right direction.”
Victor said salary increases were still budgeted at 10,5%, which "still speaks of the unhealthy control the unions have over local government. It still speaks of a governance that willy-nilly continues to milk the community that pays it.”
In his speech, Tandani said the collection of debt due to the municipality was of critical importance.
"Our payment rate on monthly accounts must be drastically improved in the short term as we have to ensure that we collect every cent budgeted for so that every cent can be spent without delays.”
He said he would conduct imbizos in each ward this month to explain to residents what they can expect from August regarding credit control measures.