Taking budget concerns seriously

RATEPAYERS made their feelings known about the Ndlambe municipal budget for 2012/2013 at a public meeting on Tuesday night.

After a poor turnout on April 30, there was a grassroots effort to encourage greater community participation at the second meeting, which paid off as nearly 100 Ward 10 residents showed up, a good turnout by Ndlambe standards.

Leading the charge against the proposed increases (12% for rates, water, sewerage and refuse removal, and 11% for electricity), Ndlambe Action Group chairman Derek Victor pointed out hardy annual issues – that Ndlambe always proposes greater increases than that recommended by the national Treasury, and has paid no heed to objections to past budgets.

Last year former mayor Vukile Balura said it was “an oversight” not to discuss written objections to the budget submitted to council, but Victor pointed out this was a clear contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act.

At Tuesday’s meeting mayor Sipho Tandani assured residents their input was valid and would be considered.

A common refrain at the budget meeting was that the annual increases were becoming unaffordable to pensioners, who would no longer be able to live in Ndlambe.

Residents also expressed indignation that every year the municipality awards itself salary increases far higher than that recommended by the Treasury, and the situation is complicated by unreasonable demands by the SA Municipal Workers’ Union.

Productivity, or rather the lack of it, was another issue. Resident after resident spoke out about their dismay at seeing municipal workers lounging around while a few did the work.

Tim Cockbain, chairman of the Port Alfred Residents and Ratepayers Association, said: “Due to the relation between the Alliance and the ruling party, they’re pushed into increases for non-productive people.”

Resident Mike Varela likened the increases to “reward for failure” and suggested a “salary freeze” for management at the municipal. This was applauded by the audience but was not as cheerfully received by the officials presiding over the meeting.

Senior managers would never entertain such a suggestion, said finance director Howard Dredge.

We hope the municipality seriously considers the groundswell of opposition to arbitrary budgeting which just goes according to its needs without considering the means of the people it purports to serve.

As Ward 10 councillor Ross Purdon said, it is disturbing to see how many people in his ward, Ndlambe’s “richest” ward, are in arrears with their municipal accounts.

– Jon Houzet

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