The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Senior Municipal Reporter
THE Bulawayo City Council will review rates and rentals by more than 700 percent between now and June next year as local authority continues to push for budgetary adjustments citing the prevailing economic situation in the country.
According to a council confidential report, the local authority is pushing for an initial immediate 300 percent increment before ballooning the rates by a further 416 percent in January as part of its 2020 budget projections. The local authority said the further 416 percent will only be valid until June before another review is effected.
The report states that while some councillors noted that the budgetary increments were rejected by a majority of residents the proposed rates will however, carry forth after being endorsed by a joint sitting of the finance and development committee and the general purposes committee.
“His worship the mayor (Councillor Solomon Mguni) noted that apparently with the current budget, service delivery had been compromised and there was therefore a need to adjust tariffs. Clr Mlandu Ncube then proposed that a 300 percent increase be effected in the last quarter of 2019 a further 416 percent be effected at the beginning of 2020 on the understanding that there will be quarterly reviews.
“This view was generally supported and it was therefore resolved to recommend that an increase of 300 percent for the 2019 second supplementary budget be adopted and be accordingly sent to the Ministry for approval, that an increase of 416 percent for the 2020 budget proposed be adopted and this to continue up to June 2020, whereupon it will be reviewed,” reads part of the council report.
Although the report does not go into detail on the exact charges that will be effected when the increments are effected it was revealed that the budget increments were necessitated by increase in charges of key goods and services required for the local authority to further its mandate of service delivery. Councillors however, said residents were against the massive increases and there was need to further engage residents.
“Clr Chigora noted that consultations were carried out and people had rejected the proposals. However, he recalled that the information given by the management after consultations to say that residents were not against the proposed increases was misleading and incorrect. Clr Mlilo concurred that the 416 percent charge was rejected totally. She also stated that at times most people did not know or understand the language used in budgets especially if it was in percentages. They tended to reject what had been proposed because they had little or no understanding of the budget figures,” reads the report.
The councillors further suggested that there be a difference of rates charges between businesses and residents as most businesses had increased their charges by over 100 percent and hence were liquid enough to sustain the proposed increases.
The local authority recently resolved to set up a crisis committee, comprising the finance and development and general purposes committee, that will be responsible of monitoring budget performance and take any action inclusive of rates increase without consulting residents, with the chamber secretary, Mrs Sikhangele Zhou, revealing that this was a strategy that was also implemented during the 2007-2008 financial year.
The setting up of this committee means council does not have to continuously consult residents as the crisis committee would just increase the service charges without consultations.