Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille Photo: African News Agency (ANA) Archives
The Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance notes with great concern the residents' growing dissatisfaction with the impact the City's budget has on ratepayers in general but more especially on the poor.

The above-inflation increases add to residents' economic woes. The insensitive increases indicate that the City has not taken into account the affordability of its rates and levies.

The budget continues to add to the tremendous financial hardships of most of the citizens who are burdened with the impact of inflation and the increase in VAT, among others.

Of particular concern is the boorish, arrogant attitude of City officials when they handle citizens.

It is common knowledge, as reported by the City, that economic growth in Cape Town has dropped tremendously, yet the City did not take that into consideration. 

Instead, it continued to budget for more increases in salaries and other governmental costs. It is reasonable to expect that the City would curtail expenditure during an economic slump.

In the commercial world, a business experiencing the effect of the economic downturn would not be able to offer lavish increases to its staff but not the City - it increased salaries above the inflation rate. 

Expenses should be cut and only basic services provided within what is an affordable budget for the consumer. It appears that the City views the ratepayers and consumers of municipal services as soft targets.

The reckless increases foisted upon suffering consumers is unfair. To add insult to injury, the City’s billing system is a mess and residents are faced with extraordinarily huge municipal bills. 

When a household receives a bill of millions of rand, it must be clear to even the least-paid and qualified employee of the City there is a problem. Yet its systems do not flag this as unusual.

The City’s response is that the consumer must pay and sort it out later. This is double jeopardy for the poor consumer while top City officials earn high salaries for producing sloppy work. Nobody seems to take responsibility.

The huge increase in municipal costs to the householder is of great concern. The levies on water and electricity add to the financial burden placed upon the consumer of municipal services. In at least one instance, a household has seen a staggering increase of more than 737% year-on-year.

The 8.14% increase in electricity charges and the 6.84% increase by the national energy regulator are way above the inflation rate.

A rates increase of 6.5% against the backdrop of a shrinking economy and a national consumer price index of less than 5% is not sustainable. There should have been a freeze on rates increases similar to what was applied in other municipalities if the councillors were looking after the interest of their voters. With the revaluation of properties proposed to come into effect next year, the impact on struggling consumers is expected to worsen.

The City can help by curbing expenses. The salaries of councillors and officials are way out of line with what is affordable. The salary bill is set to increase by 12.1% to R13.1billion with employee-related costs of R12.9bn (12.2%); 11 senior managers are to receive R31.2m (6.8%) and councillors R169.6m (9%). The operating budget is R39.3bn of which 33.3% accounts for salaries.

Residents will hold the elected representatives responsible for the debacle. We are in this mess because councillors are not articulating the sentiments of their constituents when approving vast increases. Councillors must protect residents from hardships caused by the council's excessive spending.

They have failed the people and should not be surprised if the dissatisfaction manifests in the ballot box.

Philip Bam

Secretary

Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance