Rates reprieve

2008-03-27 00:00

With a massive increase of 67% in electricity charges in the offing, the decision by the Msunduzi Municipality to delay rates increases for a year will have been received with great relief. The municipal authorities are to be commended for adopting a pragmatic and mature stance in the light of the many complaints being processed against the new valuations of ratepayers’ properties. They have rightly judged that there is not sufficient time to deal adequately with these complaints before the municipal budget needs to be finalised.

It seems abundantly clear that some serious errors of judgment have been made in the value assessment of a number of residential properties. Most recently, several ratepayers in the Sobantu village have conveyed a sense of outrage at the increased valuations they have been given. It may be that the city council will have to make a careful, objective assessment of the valuation procedures, let alone the figures arrived at, before finalising the new rates to be set.

Unlike the neighbouring uMngeni Municipality, which behaved in a cavalier way in regard to complaints it received and pushed ahead with a flawed rating policy, the Msunduzi authorities are showing a greater understanding and a refreshing realism about the need to slow down the process and to take advantage of the national deadline for implementation which is not until July 2009. Increased rates will inevitably be imposed but the much-vaunted element of public participation in decision-making, if only at the level of complaint, is being included sympathetically and sensibly. This will enhance good relations between ratepayers and their local government.

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