THE Bulawayo City Council has unilaterally increased rates and tariffs by 42 percent, despite objections by residents who had resisted the proposal during consultations held last month.
The move has immediately raised the anger among residents associations who promised to consult their membership before announcing the way forward.
The council has also written to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to seek permission to stop consulting residents when they want to increase the rates, but instead use internal ways of reviewing budgets without residents’ input.
According to a council confidential report in the possession of Sunday News, councillors on Wednesday decided to go ahead with the rates increase and further identified other revenue streams which include parking fees, vending fees, pre-paid water meters, trick-in fees and rank fees.
This was despite that during the consultations, of the 33 meetings held comprising 29 wards and four special interest groups, 13 accepted the budget, 13 rejected it, two wards were indifferent and consultations were not held in four wards.
“The Director Engineering Services (Engineer Simela Dube) was of the view that coming up with a compromise supplementary budget would also translate to a compromise in service delivery. Council should make it clear to the residents that service delivery would decrease if the budget was not supplemented accordingly. Further, other income streams might not be enough to supplement the budget.
“The financial director (Mr Kimpton Ndimande) stated that in coming up with a resolution, councillors and management should be aware that council was already running out of the budget on various inputs and essentials. He revealed that water chemicals, fuel and repairs and maintenance budgets for example, would be running out in the month of May,” reads part of the report.
Regarding the decision to set an internal committee named crisis committee to review budgets in the future, chamber secretary, Mrs Sikhangele Zhou, noted that this was a strategy that was also implemented during the 2007-2008 financial year.
The committee would comprise the finance and development and general purposes committee and will be responsible of monitoring budget performance and take any action inclusive of rates increase without consulting residents.
“Mrs Zhou advised that in the 2007-2008 financial year when council was faced with a similar situation, it had to set up a crisis committee that dealt with increasing service charges as per the escalating inflation rate.
“This meant that council did not have to continuously consult residents as the crisis committee would just increase the service charges without consultations. The Town Clerk (Mr Christopher Dube) advised that when submitting the proposed supplementary budget to the minister for approval, council should attach a rider seeking authority from the ministry to just increase the rates in tandem with inflation and then budget without further consultations,” read the minutes.
BPRA acting co-ordinator, Mr Emmanuel Ndlovu said it was unfortunate that the local authority had decided to ignore the residents and instead gone ahead with the rates and rentals increase.
“What we have always said is that we appreciate the difficult position that the local authority is in regarding the economic situation in the country but we believe there is a need for council to sit down with residents as the key stakeholder and attempt to reach common ground,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He said as an association they would go back to their membership to map a way forward.
Bulawayo United Residents Association (BURA) chairperson Mr Winos Dube concurred saying council should avoid taking the route of going it alone.