Bitou Municipality, like all municipalities in South Africa, have a legal responsibility to collect revenue from all consumers for the municipal services that it provides. Revenue collection is important to ensure the financial sustainability of the municipality, for the municipality to remain a going concern and so that it can provide affordable services to its communities in perpetuity, as determined by the Constitution and a plethora of legislation. Exception is however made for consumers that cannot afford to pay for municipal services, in terms of the Indigent Policy of the municipality and the provisions of the national Free Basic Services policy. Subsidies under the Indigent Policy, can only be accessed by an application at the municipality and by an annual renewal application.
The cost of the rebates (subsidies) extended to indigents are funded from the Equitable Share, which the municipality receives annually from the National Government. The equitable share is a financial allocation in the form of an unconditional grant that enables municipalities to provide basic services to poor households, and to enable municipalities with limited own resources to afford basic administrative and governance capacity and perform core municipal functions. Since the equitable share is not a conditional grant, municipalities can spend the money for other purposes, that are administrative or governance capacity related rather than basic services even though it should be primarily used for improving basic services.
An equitable share is revenue raised nationally to enable municipalities and provinces to provide basic services and perform the functions allocated to it as stipulated in section 227 (1) (a) of the South African Constitution. The amount of equitable share a municipality receives depends on a number of factors such as the size of its low-income population, the cost of basic services and its capacity to raise its own revenue. This allocation is meant to be used for basic services and operational costs, since the equitable share falls under the operating budget of a municipality.
Bitou Municipality have about 4000 recorded indigent applications on its indigent register. The challenge is that only 400 out of these applicants, qualify in terms of the provisions of the Indigent Policy. Some of the reasons why applicants fail, is either related to consumers not renewing their applications annually (a requirement in terms of the policy), or falling outside the R3500.00 income threshold. Successful indigent applicants are getting rebates on all service tariffs and on their rates.
In addressing the low rate of annual indigent application renewals, the municipality will embark on a special outreach programme to all wards, to mobilize and encourage consumers, to renew and/ or apply for the indigent support. This programme will be done through the Revenue section of the Finance Department, in liaison with ward councillors, along with the CDW’s (community development workers) and ward committees. It is envisaged that more applicants will be qualifying for rebates; thus making it more affordable to the poorest of the poor in the greater Plettenberg Bay community. This intended project, again illustrates that Bitou is a caring, people-centred government, mindful and committed of its plight to the poor and disadvantaged communities that it serves.
Reacting to the public outcry the Council of Bitou Municipality had discussed the matter on 17 January 2019 and had agreed on a resolution introducing temporary relief (temporary unblocking) for consumers who can prove that they are either unemployed and those employed, earning less than R3500.00, with the understanding that a non-negotiable, minimum of 10% payment towards the arrears amount will be required, to be considered for the interim relief. Consumer earning above R3500.00 will not be considered for any interim relief.
This decision and interim relief does not take away the inherent responsibility on the part of consumers to meet their full obligations towards Council for services rendered. Consumers still have to make the necessary arrangements, as permitted by the applicable Council policy, to address any arrears due to Council. Such arrangements will always be considered on merit, on a case by case basis per individual consumer.
Enquiries: Manfred Van Rooyen, Senior Communications Officer
Tel: 044 501 3193, Mobile: 063 407 3112, E-mail: MvanRooyen@plett.gov.za
Communications, Department: Corporate Services, BITOU MUNICIPALITYLast published 04 February 2019