Councillors, mgt clash over rates hike proposal

Bulawayo Councillors are reportedly up in arms with the council management over plans to increase rates by 416 percent next year.

The proposal by the management was reportedly presented to the councillors in a closed-door meeting on Friday last week.

In May, the local authority unveiled a supplementary budget which sought to increase rates by 45%.

Government is yet to approve the supplementary budget.

If the latest proposal sails through, residents in high-density suburbs would pay as ZW$165 in rates per month and even more if the economic situation in the country continues to deteriorate.

Bulawayo deputy mayor, Cllr Tinashe Kambarami told CITE in an interview that the council needs to look for alternative revenue streams which will ease the residents’ burden of paying exorbitant rates.

Cllr Kambarami said already residents are in arrears, an indication they are struggling to pay the current rates.

“We need to understand is that these residents earn the same amount of salaries. The council needs to come up with austerity measures that will help in subsidising rates. These rates were pegged when people were still using United States Dollars.

“We represent the government at a local level, we are not a private company. Hiking rates that much would be like milking a dead cow, the economy keeps deteriorating and people are not gainfully employed,” said Cllr Kambarami.

The deputy mayor said other revenue streams that can be made use of are parking systems, truck stops and prepaid water meters.

Finance and Development Committee chairperson and Ward 4 Cllr Silas Chigora lamented that domestic and industrial debts are already at ZW$184 million and the increases in rates would only accumulate more debt.

“These hikes would result in rates going up to ZW$358 on average per month. We need to take into consideration that salaries have not been increased. Some of these residents are vendors and such a remarkable increase would deeply affect them,” said Chigora.

Another councillor who spoke on condition anonymity expressed dismay over the proposed rates’ increment saying it displays insensitivity from the council management.

“We are not amused by the conduct of the management. They are employed to come up with project ideas which will help to generate revenue for the city. We cannot allow our residents to be subjected to such high rates,” said the councillor.

The councillor said already the council is struggling to effectively deliver services to the residents and increasing rates this much would only turn people against their councillors.

“What is disheartening is we were openly told that if we don’t force residents to pay the city will collapse. They (management) said councillors must be reminded that they must at all costs make sure the budget is accepted by residents. A senior Alderman challenged this proposal saying they had taken it too far and must find ways for the city to generate money,” said the councillor.

Contacted for a comment, BCC public relations officer Bongiwe Ngwenya said any proposals to hike rates will be communicated through the ongoing 2020 budget consultation meetings.

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