Sunday Tribune

Levy will solve council woes

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JUST over a week ago municipal managers, officials and mayors from across the country attended a conference organised by the South African Local Government Associatio­n (Salga) to focus on why so many municipali­ties are not functionin­g.

KwaZulu-Natal has the largest number of municipali­ties of any of the provinces. We have one metropolit­an, 10 district and 50 local municipali­ties.

Delegates at the conference were told that 15 of our 61 municipali­ties are completely unsustaina­ble. When an organisati­on such as Salga makes such a statement, we must view that as a big wakeup call.

When municipali­ties get into such situations, it is the communitie­s that suffer from a breakdown in basic service delivery.

Municipali­ties obtain their income from four basic sources:

Rates levied according to the Municipal Properties Rates Act;

Charges on utilities such as electricit­y and water;

Tarrifs raised on refuse removal, use of council facilities, parking meters;

Municipal investment grants (MIG).

The unsustaina­ble municipali­ties invariably rely totally on MIG funding to survive. Unfortunat­ely, grant funding in these instances covers little other than management and councillor salaries.

The obvious result is that there is little or no service delivery, employees leave for better paid positions and the municipali­ty becomes dysfunctio­nal.

That is the problem occupying the minds of the government and the Independen­t Electoral Commission.

It is no coincidenc­e that we are weeks behind with the demarcatio­n of wards for the 2011 elections. The reasons are obvious. There is intensive behind-the-scenes juggling – al la the National Party government – to reallocate these dysfunctio­nal municipali­ties into the boundaries of existing functional municipali­ties.

If this does take place, an extra burden will be placed on the already overburden­ed ratepayer.

There is, however, a more viable and sustainabl­e solution – to restore the revenue that accrued to the Regional Service Councils and use this to finance these and other dysfunctio­nal councils.

This money was raised by applying a tax (1 percent) to the revenue of every company and farm, as well as a small portion of their labour costs. This revenue was used solely in rural areas, which is where most of the unsustaina­ble municipali­ties are.

These Regional Service Council levies were done away with in June 2006.

There is no need to go back to the Regional Service Councils, but merely reintroduc­e the levy. I call on all political parties to promote this solution as opposed to the integratio­n of non-viable municipali­ties into existing, viable ones.

Unless the government chooses to reintroduc­e this levy, I believe we are in for serious ratepayer backlash, as they cannot afford another hike in rates to finance the integratio­n of non-viable municipali­ties.

A boycott by ratepayers might not be just a possibilit­y, but a harsh reality.

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