25 April 2018

South Africa: De Lille Asks for Lower Water Tariff Hike After Thousands of Complaints

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille has asked for a reduction in the proposed 27% water tariff hike, after the City received roughly 24 900 complaints from residents during public submissions on the new budget.

De Lille - in what could be one of her last budget speeches before the council as mayor - told the City of Cape Town council that 80%, approximately 20 000, of all complaints received were directly related to the water, electricity and rates hike.

She felt the proposed water tariff hike could be reduced if the City made use of its "underspend" in other departments.

"Our current capital spend was 47.3%, compared to 53.1% last year," she told the council.

"If you add the underspend from the City's new water programme, then the actual capital underspend is 39.3%."

Waiting for feedback

De Lille said she had met with the office of the city manager and all executive directors last week about the underspend, and was waiting to hear back about a possible new percentage increase.

"I have requested that they reduce the 26.9% water tariff increase and that they must use the unspent money of this financial year to cover the losses of the next financial year," she told councillors.

The contentious final budget for the 2018/19 financial year, beginning from July 1, will be adopted in the week of May 28.

De Lille also had some of her powers stripped with regard to completing the new budgetary process, after the council delegated her powers to her mayoral committee as a whole on January 19.

De Lille encouraged Cape Town residents to make use of the public submissions phase.

"There is currently just over a week left for residents to submit their comments and objections before the May 4 deadline," De Lille said of the new proposed budget.

The council also adopted its proposed adjustments budget on Wednesday.

'Rather address these criminals here'

The City of Cape Town has battled a severe water crisis over the last six months, managing to extend "Day Zero" - the point at which municipal taps would be switched off - back to 2019, thanks to water saving efforts.

The proposed tariff hike would form part of the City's future strategy to continue to save water. Councillors from both sides have, however, argued that the large hike punishes residents, especially the poor.

In a separate matter, De Lille will be the subject of an internal party motion of no confidence in her leadership later on Wednesday.

DA councillors will meet for a special caucus after the council adjourns, where they will likely debate the embattled mayor's future for up to three hours.

Deputy caucus leader JP Smith told News24 that an outcome would probably be reached late on Wednesday evening, and - depending on a caucus decision - the outcome could be communicated thereafter.

Councillors on the ANC benches and a handful of DA councillors applauded De Lille as she took to the podium on Wednesday.

ANC caucus leader Xolani Sotashe then led his councillors out of the venue, as has become the party's practice when being addressed by De Lille.

"The mayor should rather address these criminals here," he remarked indicating the DA caucus.

In the event of a successful motion, De Lille will not be automatically removed as mayor.

The process will be referred to the federal executive, which will then ask De Lille to make representations to defend herself.

Source: News24

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