Mayco member for water and waste services and energy Xanthea Limberg. Picture: Supplied

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town’s public participation process on the proposed tariff increases closed with more than 37000 comments Friday, of which 80% were objections.

Mayco member for water and waste services and energy Xanthea Limberg said the majority of the comments on the draft budget were related to water, electricity and rates tariff objections.

Lobby group Dear Cape Town claims an overwhelming majority of the 37 000 comments rejected the proposal. The group runs a website whose portal is linked to the City’s public participation comments mail.

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Founder Sandra Dickson said that at one point last week the group had more than 25 000 comments, while the City’s e-mail had 2 000 comments, which the City read in real time.

In her budget speech in March, mayor Patricia de Lille tabled a draft budget that included tariff increases of 26.9% for water and sanitation; 7.2% increase for rates; 5.7% for refuse and 8.1% for electricity.

The draft budget aimed to bring in R3billion for the council’s augmented schemes.

This plan would rake in R9.4bn from property rates and R12bn from electricity sales.

The news has divided the DA leadership and upset Capetonians.

Dickson said they understand that the increases are inevitable due to inflation.

“But they have to sit down, listen to the people and adjust it.

“Budgetwise, they have to have increases, but they have to remove the levies, and that may be a long shot.”

She said she is waiting for the public protector’s detailed inquiry into how the budget was drawn up.

Dickson said that after the City realised their 2017 water levy proposal had become the source of outrage, the council moved to use the pipe charge, where the City charges residents with longer pipes more, as a loophole.

On Friday, the City said its directorates would meet soon and the feedback would be submitted to the public participation unit for capturing. Thereafter the unit would submit a report to council.

Regarding whether proposed tariff changes would be adjusted as a result of the overwhelming objections, Limberg said the decision would be taken by council after consideration.

She stressed that the City would make no profit from water and sanitation. Limberg said the service would remain self-funded.

“(That) means that all revenue is applied to covering operational expenditure. The cost of running the network also does not increase or decrease in proportion with how much water people are using.”

Moreover, she said, the drought and weather uncertainty brought new challenges.

She added that the proposed tariff changes were aimed at “securing the resources necessary to overcome these challenges”.

“The City has drastically reprioritised existing funds to try to minimise how much of this burden is passed on to residents but there is a limit to what can be achieved with existing resources and tariffs.

“Work to increase water security, although it will be costly, will serve to protect the City against future droughts, and minimise to what extent the City will need to implement water restrictions and accompanying tariff level increases in future.”

Weekend Argus