Howick: ratepayers’ campaign to resist exorbitant rates increase gaining momentum

2011-06-21 00:00

THE campaign to resist the exorbitant rates increase in Howick is gaining momentum. The Howick West Ratepayers’ Association (HWRA) is the latest organisation to join the fray.

There was a record turnout at the association’s meeting on Sunday, at which more than 150 people unanimously agreed to contest the rates increases.

The gathering mandated HWRA vice-chairperson Mano Naidoo to pursue a course of dispute resolution with the mayor and acting municipal manager.

Naidoo is to propose a seven percent standard increase on existing rates while an independent audit is conducted on both the valuation roll, which is considered to be flawed, and the rates randage, which the gathering agreed is poorly applied.

The proposal has been endorsed by the broader uMngeni Ratepayers’ Association Forum, which met immediately after the HWRA gathering.

Naidoo was named chairperson of the forum and mandated on behalf of the greater uMngeni ratepayer community to liaise with the mayor and acting municipal manager.

The forum comprises the Concerned Residents’ Group (CRG), the Hilton Ratepayers’ Association and the HWRA.

Naidoo proposed to inform the municipal administration of the effect its proposed increases will have on the social fabric of the uMngeni community, where unemployment is high and increasing numbers of families are falling into debt.

Howick West has been particularly hard hit by the rates increases, which are due to come into effect on July 1. Most residents face increases of 60% and more.

The gathering, at the Howick West Hall, was told that efforts to bring the plight of ratepayers to the attention of the municipal administration have fallen on deaf ears.

Requests for an extension to lodge valuation objections have failed to elicit even the courtesy of a reply, and public submissions in terms of the budget were dismissed.

HWRA member Ravesh Brijmohan presented a graph he had drawn up of the impact of the uneven application of rate values on just two roads in the area.

The increases range from 11% to 191% without logical order.

The CRG’s Dr Rob Maclaren discussed the discrepancies in the valuation roll. He said this has had the effect of limiting the revenue income of the municipality while putting an undue burden on communities like Howick West, which was formerly an Indian group area.

Maclaren said that as it stands Howick West would be subsidising wealthy developments such as the Boschhoek Golf Estate, which is only valued at R307 000.

John Tungay of the new Midlands Chamber of Business told the meeting that the only way the local economy could grow in a sustainable manner would be if rates were applied in a fair and equitable manner.

Democratic Alliance councillors at the meeting pledged to contribute to the campaign for fairer rates in the town.

Tim Lindsay-White said the party had taken up residents’concerns in a meeting with the KZN MEC for Finance, Ina Cronje, two months ago, and is still waiting for a response.

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