By Staff Reporter
THE Victoria City Council says it is owed in excess of $200 million in unpaid rates and related services by its residents and businesses.
Town Clerk Ronne Dube said this impacted negatively on the authority’s capabilities to delivery smooth services in the country’s newest city.
“People are not paying their bills well,” he said, adding, “If you look at Victoria Falls, it survives through tourism.
“With the effect of Covid-19 protocols in force, many people have been having difficulties in paying their bills.
“You will find that last month the council resolved to reduce some tariffs so that people are able to cope and pay.
“We reduced water charged tariffs by 40% and we reduced shop licences at high density areas by 33%.
“We reduced fixed water charges and we came up with a flexible payment plan for shop licences and big businesses so that they are able to stagger their payments.”
Dube said operators who were used to paying for business and shop licences once at the start of every year could now pay quarterly.
The move is aimed at reducing the burden on them having to use scarce funds to cover the entire year in terms of fee obligations.
“Our debtors at the moment are sitting on $200 million which is very heavy,” he said, adding that council also gave defaulting residents a reprieve through a blanket debt waiver.
“So, that is what the council has done. But knowing that economic environment people are still not happy, but we are also trying to balance things and remain viable and if we go beyond that, we may not be able to provide the basic services.
“We have a debt collection department which is phoning people reminding them of their debts and sending summons reminding that some owe debts from before Covid-19 lockdown, so there is no legitimacy in claiming that they were affected by Covid 19.
“So, we are saying those who owe us from before Covid-19 lockdown, then we will institute debt collection processes which are legal through our lawyers, but we are obviously giving relief to people who accrued debts during the Covid-19 lockdown.”
Dube said despite the failure by rate payers to settle bills, the local authority was doing well in terms of water supply and road network.