Business owners are calling for political backing and urgent action in the municipality’s “elaborate” plans to upgrade the city’s ageing electricity grid.After listening attentively to a presentation at the Pietermaritzburg of Chamber of Business (PCB) on Monday, business owners expressed their frustrations at the failing municipal services in the city.Harry Shaw, of local business Shaw and Wall, said that the “almost non-existent” municipal services are driving investors to look elsewhere.He said that businesses moving out of the city and new investors overlooking the capital city were signs of a “dying and decaying” town.“You need to pass this strong message on to the politicians and those in power,” Shaw told Brenden Sivparsad, who was conducting the presentation.Sivparsad, the municipality’s acting general manager for infrastructure, presented a multi-million rand plan that details how the City intends to upgrade the electricity grid and reduce the number of power outages.Sivparsad said his department is requesting that R100 million to be made available immediately for these upgrades. He said this would be the start of a R450-million project that would span over five years.But business owners were not as accepting of the plan, as many said they “have heard it all before”.Some said they heard a similar plan eight years ago and were still waiting for the upgrades to take place.Rob Maitland-Stewart from Watt Projects said he was grateful to Sivparsad for making time to address business owners, but the “grand plan” was only good on paper. “Something needs to be done now,” he said.Hilton resident and businessman Maitland-Stewart said that the electricity infrastructure in Hilton could not support itself because when there is a fault on one cable then another cable trips, leaving the entire area without power.Supporting Maitland-Stewart’s call for immediate action, members of the Hilton Ratepayers Association (HRA) echoed his sentiments.“We understand that there are processes that need to be followed and funds that need to be allocated and sourced and all that, but we are fed up. This has gone on for far too long and we need action as soon as possible,” said John Holiday of the HRA.Senior HR manager for GUD Holdings Raj Seeparsad called on the City’s top brass to attend meetings with business owners and residents.He said that constant meetings and updates, such as Monday’s gathering, were “excellent to have”, but there was a desperate need to have the City’s executives present.“It is all well and good to tell Brenden what we are feeling and how it is affecting our businesses but, as he said, he will have to take this back to whoever and then go via the portfolio committees, executive committee and then full council.“We need the mayor, the municipal manager and those general managers here in these meetings with us. The frustrations are high and it is crucial to have those decision-makers present,” Seeparsad said.PCB CEO Melanie Veness agreed that failure to provide basic municipal services would result in business and investors taking their money and time elsewhere in the province.“This is massively important in attracting new interests to the city. We need to be consistent in providing the basic services,” she said.Sivparsad told business owners that the R60 million upgrades at the Northdale substation were complete and this would reduce the number of power outages in the northern suburbs, including Eastwood.He said that the R33 million project to stabilise the grid in the city centre was close to completion.“The cables have been laid and it is just to do the connections now. That is expected to be done by next month,” he said.Sivparsad said that apart from its ageing infrastructure, the City’s other major issues include the overloading of the grid caused by illegal connections and vandalism at substations.He said that the municipality has hired private security to combat illegal connections and is also revisiting the rural electrification programme.“We are trying to find an amicable solution as we cannot just go and cut people off. We have already electrified Jika Joe and Copesville and have seen the difference in the loading of the grid so we are hoping to do the same elsewhere,” he said.He added that the municipality was looking at installing CCTV cameras, private security and rapid response at “hotspots” to tackle the increase in vandalism of municipal property.