Rates Act to be amended

2010-02-11 00:00

THE controversial Municipal Property Rates Act is to be amended to provide for more active intervention by provincial and national government in cases were municipalities are not implementing the act properly.

This was said by Deputy Minister of Co-operative Governance Yunus Carrim, commenting on a meeting he had with members of the Msunduzi Rates Forum.

The forum passed a resolution asking Carrim to assist in their fight against high valuations in the nor­thern suburbs. In a statement after the meeting, Carrim said that clearly there were major flaws in the initial valuation of properties in the Msunduzi Municipality.

“The second [round of valuations] was better, but there were still flaws. It is not clear to me why the municipa­lity did not exercise more effective oversight of the valuation, and I hope the municipality has drawn lessons that will avoid such flaws in the future,” Carrim said.

He added that, given the importance of the issues raised by the forum, and the various provisions in the act for public consultation, the municipality should have negotiated with the forum from the outset.

Carrim facilitated a meeting of members of the forum with Msunduzi municipal manager Rob Haswell. The meeting took place on Tuesday. Forum chairman Babs Sithapersad said it was a good meeting and they were treated with courtesy.

However, he added, the true success will be measured in the months to come.

Forum treasurer A.H. Banoobhai presented findings of research he conducted highlighting various anomalies in the valuation process.

Haswell said he could not offer explanations as he is not an expert on valuation. He agreed to set up a series of meetings with the company that carried out the valuations.

The issue of late notices was raised and the forum asked for an extension of the appeal process. Sithapersad said they also asked for the supplementary valuation roll to be displayed at all municipal offices.

He added, however, that their main concern is the matter of 22 000 poor people who are on the valuation roll and whose number was reduced to 17 000 as a result of the new rating system. “We asked what happened to the other 5 000 and recommended that the rebates for the indigent should be based on income and not on the value of one’s house,” he said.

Sithapersad is pleased that Haswell has allowed more time for people to register as indigents, saying the forum will help people who want to register as indigents to fill in their forms.

He said that for now the forum’s planned court case against the municipality will be put on ice. “It will be our last resort if our current efforts fail. We are still going to raise funds for this, and up to the present we have raised R55 000,” he said.

Haswell said the meeting was cordial and constructive. “Clearly, as ratepayers they have every right to be fully informed about the process and the results of the compilation of the new valuation roll. Therefore, I undertook to arrange a comprehensive briefing session for them, and to arrange a programme whereby indigent households may be granted rates relief. In addition, I will seek legal advice on their request for an extension of the appeals notice,” he said.

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