Picture: SR&RA Chair Dr Andy Brough
CLOSING DATE EXTENDED TO 19 MAY
Locals will certainly agree that over the last two months, the Sedgefield Ratepayers and Residents Association (SR&RA) has directed a lot of energy towards mobilising locals to have a hard look at the proposed 2023/4 Municipal Budget – and their efforts have shown dividends. At time of going to press, the number of objections from Sedgefield residents was around 700.
These, combined with around 600 objections and a 4000-signature petition from Knysna residents, should certainly give the local authority cause to sit up, listen and head back to the drafting board.
These numbers are set to increase as the date for objections to close has been pushed to Friday, 19 May.
Whilst National Government has also weighed in through COGTA (see article on page 3), Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has met with a group of interested parties – including members of the SR&RA ExCo – and reported that Provincial Treasury is on the case. A deployed party has spent a week in Knysna and compiled a 40-page report which the Premier is currently reviewing. Whilst he could not, as yet give full details of the report, Winde did mention that the number one finding clearly indicated a lack of governance in the Knysna Municipality. The Treasury report will be made public once finalised.
In the SR&RA’s objection letter to the proposed 2023/24 budget, Chair Andy Brough has raised 16 points of order and referred to the budget as unsustainable, drafted on the unrealistic assumption of an overall rate increase of 32,9%.
“We ran nine scenarios using models for vacant land, pensioners, indigents, guest houses, domestic households, businesses, and agricultural property,” the letter stated, “We were shocked to see that the combined effect of the new property rates (together with the proposed water, sanitation and electricity tariffs) results in us paying anything between 9.4% and 30% more year on year! Pensioners could expect to pay 21% more. On a R2.2 million property, the net effect of the increased electricity tariff and property rates alone would mean an increase of 21%.”
This when National Treasury’s headline inflation guideline is that increases should be 4.7% – 5.3%.
One of the main, if not THE biggest problem the SR&RA has with the proposed Knysna Municipal budget is the disappearance of Sedgefield’s R42 million, which had previously been allocated for building much-needed low-income houses over the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 budget periods. Brough explains in the objection letter that this was brought up in a Ward 1 IDP/Budget meeting held on 2 May, but the invited dignitaries from Knysna Municipality could shed no light on why this allocation had been redirected elsewhere.
“No satisfactory answers were forthcoming from Executive Mayor Aubrey Tsengwa; Director of Integrated Human Settlements, Mr Lindile Petuna; and the Municipal Manager, Mr Ombali Sebola, as to what has happened to this money,” wrote Brough, “The Mayor is on record promising the Smutsville residents that the housing project would advance. However, these reassurances would be more credible if the capital required and previously allocated were reflected in this budget. Could they please explain how the top priority for Ward 1 (Housing) has a zero-budget allocation? This makes no sense and makes a complete farce of the public participation/ward committee process.”
With only two days to go, the SR&RA urges anyone who hasn’t objected – be they ratepayers or residents of Sedgefield – to consider adding their voice should they not wish to face huge increases in their municipal accounts from July 2023 onwards.