Bulawayo council-residents square off over 300 % rates hike

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

A showdown is looming between the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) and residents after the local authority refused to accept the rate payers’ demands to revise downwards, its tariffs.

The government in January this year approved the council’s $2 779 412 294 budget, in a development which has seen rates increasing by 416 percent.

This came barely four months after another 300 % rate hike in October last year.

The local authority in October last year, increased rates by 300% to finance its proposed supplementary budget.

On March 4 2020, the residents, through the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) wrote to council pleading with it to set aside the October rate increase and look for alternative revenue sources.

“BCC should have conducted adequate consultations on the affordability of the budget. Residents by and large voiced their concerns over the increase but these were not taken on board. The 716% budget increase has been viewed as a cruel onslaught against the urban poor.

“Against the foregoing, the BPRA is proposing that BCC must reduce the affordability gap by setting aside the 300% increase for the supplementary budget,” reads part of the BPRA’s letter which was copied to the councillors, Town Clerk Christopher Dube and Mayor Solomon Mguni.

The residents also advised the local authority to look for alternative revenue sources and also stop engaging in income draining projects like sponsoring a football team.

The authority owns Bulawayo City Football Club which was last season promoted into the premier league.

“There is need for BCC to urgently come up with alternative revenue sources. There is need to cut down on unnecessary expenditure and reduce overtime expenditures.

“In 2019, residents spoke against the continued funding of the Bulawayo City Football Club which is draining the council‘s coffers and is not benefiting residents,” further wrote the residents.

In an interview with New, council finance chairperson, councillor Mlandu Ncube accused residents of being unrealistic.

“People should not pretend as if they are not aware of the current unstable economic environment which we are experiencing in the country,” Ncube said.

“If we set aside the October 300% rate increase, we will not be able to provide services.

“If we fail to provide services, the same residents will accuse us of incompetence.

“Considering that the 300% increment has been eroded by inflation, we might be instead forced to push for further tariff increases so as to meet rising operational costs.”