Parties call for clarity on policies for the poor

2012-09-04 00:00

OPPOSITION parties in the Msunduzi Municipality have called for clarity on the city’s policies for the poor.

Councillor Dave Ryder, spokesperson for the DA in the council, said that at a full council meeting last Wednesday, his party had asked for clarity on the policy.

“In his response, the municipal manager [Mxolisi Nkosi] said a review of the policy would be done and that he would report back at the next full council meeting in September,” said Ryder.

The DA was reacting to the story in yesterday’s Witness on the hidden costs in the municipal bills and confusion over the city’s indigent policy.

The rates had gone up by more than the expected seven percent tariff increase because rebates had been cut and there was an extra R15 basic water charge.

Residents who previously received exemptions under the lifeline system found themselves with bills that had increased by more than 300%. No one had bothered to tell them that they had to re-apply for benefits and on top of that, there was confusion as to who qualified.

Ryder said the DA’s position on the indigent policy had always been that a means test alone should be the deciding factor as to whether a person qualifies for concessions and not the value of the property.

On the hidden rates cost, he said that once the tariff charges had been approved by council, they remain fixed for that year.

However, Ryder warned that close attention will have to be paid to the city’s draft budget of 2013/14. “If there is any further reduction in the residential property rebate, then serious attention must be given to ways in which to lessen the burden on lower valued properties.”

Ryder, from his own calculations, found that the drop in the rates rebate resulted in a situation where owners of lower valued properties paid more than those in the upper end of the market.

Leader of the IFP in the Msunduzi Municipality, Dolo Zondi, said the treatment of the indigent in the city made a mockery of the ANC saying it was pro-poor.

He said that the lifeline benefits should have remained until after people made application for benefits under the new indigent policy. Once processed, those who no longer qualified could then be informed and taken off the list.

Local property developer Richard Kelland picked up on the issue of affordability. He said that he had often asked officials in the economic development and finance departments if they had an accurate idea of who and what makes up their revenue base. For example, “how are the different active economic sectors comprised and what proportion of the engine of growth do they contribute”, Kelland said.

“This will ensure that charges are appropriate and affordable, and will attract investment from existing contributors, growth from new investors, and an optimistic and engaged community willing to put their collective shoulder to the wheel.”

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