As a trending concern in Newcastle’s resident’s lives and a common conversational topic in social and business environments. Municipal bills of late, have been skyrocketing with many Newcastillians forking out substantially more than they did in the past.
In light of this growing, unanswered concern, the Newcastillian – Online Daily News enquired why the municipal bills of late, have been so high? Why are residents expected to fork out extra cash on their monthly expenditure, especially now after months of the financially crushing lockdown?
Firstly, let us look back to 29 June 2020 when Newcastle Mayor, Cllr. Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba officially presented the Newcastle Municipality’s annual budget for 2020/2021.
During the budget speech, Cllr Dr Mahlaba announced Newcastillians could expect electricity tariffs to increase by 6.22%, while water tariffs would increase by 5%. However, do these percentages correlate with the increases noted by residents on their monthly bills?
Amrè Gibson explains her monthly municipal bill jumped up by more than R1500. However, during the month of May, in the midst of level 4 lockdown, it only went up by R500. She now questions why the municipal bills are so high, especially with Newcastle Municipality switching off geysers to help cut costs.
Before we continue, noting that the Municipality stated a while back, the geysers were to be switched off in order to save on electricity and not money per se, in the hope of preventing higher levels of loadshedding, must be kept in mind.
Continuing on the subject, living in a complex in Pioneer Park, Gibson says her family comes from Cato Ridge where the cost of living is higher, but their municipal bill seldom went over R1000. When looking at the increase in the tariffs, she stresses the bills should still not be at the level they are. “It does not make sense, a person is worried about getting your utility bill,” she points out.
Adding to the concerns voiced by Gibson, another resident who is concerned about the exorbitant tariffs is Faizel Cassim, a local businessman whose bill has escalated by over R2000.
Concerned about the high bills, Cassim would like to establish a forum to address the matter, so that resolutions can be found and the community can move forward. However, he says a lack of public participation is proving to be a tad problematic.
He believes by creating a forum and establishing structure, the community can address the issues at hand through a functional medium. “We are coming out of a pandemic and people can’t afford this,” he stresses.
The Newcastle Municipality issued a statement regarding the matter, but is the municipality’s response the answer the community is looking for?
“The Newcastle Municipality is aware of the high municipal bills for consumers in Lennoxton, Fernwood, Paradise and Central. The high municipal bills are a result of averaged meter readings for the month of July’s municipal bills, which were in turn a result of staff shortages due to increased numbers of Covid-19 cases in the municipality,” the municipality stated.
Furthermore, according to the municipality, the averaging of meter readings was, unfortunately, unavoidable.
“The averaged meter readings are a computer-generated estimate based on twelve (12) month meter readings. The aforementioned estimate was regrettably very low as it was based on mostly summer months’ consumption. “
The municipality adds that the August municipal bills are based on actual meter readings, which reflects winter consumption and catches on the previous month’s lower estimate and hence the big jump in consumption units.
Continuing, the municipal bills for the month of August are now, according to the Municipality, based on the increased electricity and water tariffs for the 2020/2021 financial year.
Offering a helping hand to the community the Municipality states, “To this end, should any of the consumers have difficulties in making the required payment for the municipal bills, such consumers are encouraged to visit the municipal offices to make payment arrangements.”
With the Municipality stating that residents will note a positive change in tariffs, we can only wait to see if these words ring true. Share your views with us in the comment section below?