COUNCIL SPEECH BY THE EXECUTIVE MAYOR, ALDERMAN DAN PLATO
26 May 2021
Annual budget 2021/22: City continues to prioritise support for residents amid ongoing Covid-19 impact
Speaker, let me start today by welcoming you to your new position, and congratulating you for taking up this key seat in our council. I am confident that your 26 years as a councillor in service to the people of this city will serve you in good stead to continue putting the people of our beautiful city first, and overseeing these council meetings with fairness and professionalism.
Speaker, today I table the City’s annual budget of R56,6 billion, which amounts to R8,3 billion for the capital budget, and R48,3 billion for the operating budget. The annual budget for 2021/22 outlines the funded commitments of the City, which will see us deliver on our Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and associated strategies in order to effectively support the lives and livelihoods of all our residents.
As the impacts of the global Covid-19 pandemic continue to be felt by all, we have taken measures to provide relief to struggling residents. As of 30 April 2021, we have written off outstanding debts of residents to the value of R295 million, with a proposal on tomorrow’s council agenda to write off a further R4 billion in outstanding debt from residents from previous years.
We are also allocating R3,35 billion for rates relief for the 2021/22 financial year. This consists of R1,99 billion for indigent relief and R1,35 billion in rates rebates. This is in addition to the dedicated Covid-19 relief budget, primarily of R313 million on the Operating Budget.
Knowing the economic fallout from this crisis and how it has impacted on the income levels of businesses and residents, we have placed significant emphasis on ensuring that this budget does not impose further economic hardship. As such we have ensured that, through extensive expenditure cuts, the rates and tariff increases have been kept to an absolute minimum. Rates increases are as follows: 4,5% average increase for rates, 5% increase for water and sanitation, and 3,5% for refuse removal. The electricity tariff will be increased by 13,48%, with residents being spared the full increase of 15,06% imposed by Eskom.
“Knowing the economic fallout from this crisis and how it has impacted the income levels of businesses and residents, we’ve placed significant emphasis on ensuring that this budget does not impose further economic hardship” – Mayor Dan Plato
— City of Cape Town (@CityofCT) May 26, 2021
We continue to call for National Government to move faster regarding IPP legislation as we are currently having to allocate 23% of our total annual budget towards bulk electricity purchases from Eskom. I am sure that with clean and reliable energy provided by a host of independent power producers, we can reduce the amount we spend on electricity, and redirect those funds towards more services for our residents.
In light of the pressure on the National Budget, the tapering-off of transfers to local governments means that we will have less available from that source to fund our activities, and this should further incentivise national government to provide urgent clarity on IPPs.
With R11,1 billion allocated towards our Water and Waste Department and R13,8 billion towards Energy and Climate Change, these two departments take up just over half of our total operational budget. R4,6 billion is allocated towards our Safety and Security Directorate, with R4,2 billion allocated towards Community Services and Health.
Further details for each of the directorates will be discussed by each of the Mayoral Committee Members.
A critical part of the budgetary process for any City that wants to ensure it is accountable and responsive to its residents, is public participation. In spite of the challenges, we continue to face as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic, and the limitations placed on public gatherings, the City of Cape Town was able to safely host 68 ward based focus groups on the draft budget across the City and where residents weren’t able to attend in person we made use of services such as Skype. While we continued to place adverts in newspapers, including community papers distributed directly to our residents’ post boxes, we also made use of social media and ensured the budget was available at all of our libraries for the public to engage with.
To all the residents who provided input, thank you. This is your budget, and with all the submissions we received from you during the public participation process we are able to deliver a budget that takes into account your needs, the challenges you are facing, and how best we can continue to serve you.
Our budget has been a careful balancing act between meeting the service delivery needs of all residents and businesses in these trying times and stemming further economic decline in this constrained context. We acknowledge and thank residents and businesses for their continued high-level of payments, which is key to ensuring that the municipality can continue to provide services to all who seek a livelihood in our City.
Unfortunately, until such time as we reach herd-immunity, through the roll-out of an effective global vaccination programme, we anticipate that we will continue to operate within the constraints of some form of lockdown imposed through the National Disaster Emergency Regulations, and the associated additional costs of delivering services within the public health response.
These constraints will not prevent us from delivering services, which sustain both lives and livelihoods. We are fully committed to continue charting a recovery path for the City, and ensuring that the best services possible are delivered as efficiently as possible. The investments made through this budget will not only help to ensure services are delivered and communities are protected, but they will also support the recovery of our economy.
Among these cuts is a commitment that there will be zero percent cost of living increase in the salaries and wages provision in the 2021/22 financial year. To achieve this, the City has petitioned the Local Government Bargaining Council to not award any salary increases for staff and councillors.
We understand that this has been a hard year for staff and councillors, who have admirably continued to deliver services and support communities under trying circumstances, but we all need to make sacrifices in order to achieve longer term sustainability.
It is simply not acceptable that those in the public sector, by virtue of being subject to collective agreements should impose further strain on the residents we serve, however, should the bargaining council bind us to making such increases, the City’s staff numbers will have to be decreased to achieve this commitment.
Give Dignity Campaign
Speaker, as winter fast approaches – some might say it is already here looking at some of the severe cold fronts we’ve had in recent weeks – I want to share with our councillors today more information on our Give Dignity campaign, and hope that they are promoting this campaign in each of their wards.
The City’s Give Dignity Campaign advocates for alternative, more impactful ways of helping people to get off the streets sustainably. It is important that donations encourage reintegration and go directly to supporting persons who have committed to rebuilding their lives off the streets.
There is an official Give Dignity SnapScan that residents can use to make donations, or they can donate directly to shelters and NGOs. By doing this, residents can help to support people stay off the streets on a sustainable basis as registered organisations can provide warm beds, social worker support, substance abuse rehab, and other services that will help those living on the street with reintegration.
On several occasions over recent weeks, I joined our Reintegration Unit officials while they were carrying out their duties across the City. They work daily to link willing individuals to shelters and Safe Spaces and reunite families where possible. Help is provided to get off drugs via the Matrix programme, access to EPWP jobs, obtain ID documents, social grants, employment training and more. What became clear to me is that drugs are without question a major reason why many are living on the streets.
While shelters and social welfare remains the constitutional mandate of national and provincial government, the City continues to go above and beyond to assist.
Covid-19 Food Relief
Speaker, I mentioned a few minutes ago that the City continues to provide Covid-19 relief funding for our residents as it has done over the past year. Much of this has gone towards critical food-aid that was necessary for our many residents who found themselves unemployed as a result of the national lockdowns.
Some might have forgotten by now about the alarming scenes of shops being looted and food trucks being torched during the first weeks of lockdown last year. By rolling out our emergency food aid relief to over 260 soup kitchens across the city we quickly saw the looting and theft of food come to an end.
With all this good work being done, I find it greatly disappointing that some shameless politicians are now trying to smear our critical relief efforts by making false accusations and throwing mud in the hope that some will stick, even after the truth has come out. We know that a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
The DA councilor who was last week accused of fraud is cooperating fully with the authorities. When allegations against her were first brought to our attention several weeks ago, the Speaker’s office launched a full investigation without delay and found no malpractice was committed.
I am very concerned that the Hawks seem to be acting on false information provided to them, and have issued media statements that they have had to correct a day later. While all the media houses ran with the original story of fraud and corruption I have only seen a handful cover the backtracking of the Hawks.
I trust that if anyone is found to have misled the Hawks, and wasted taxpayers’ money on manufactured witch hunts, that they will be held responsible.
I have said it before, and I am saying it again today, our media have a responsibility to scrutinise the information they are given, instead of just printing the lies they are told.
Speaker, while we roll out our winter readiness programme and assist our residents most in need, I find it deeply disturbing that some in our communities think it is okay to steal and destroy the city infrastructure that delivers critical services to our residents.
One area that has been particularly hard hit in recent weeks is our sewerage infrastructure. Currently, 25 sewage pump stations across our city have been vandalised or impacted by theft.
It is estimated that these operating costs, including repairs and the hiring of mobile equipment to minimise sewer overflows, could cost approximately R30 million. While this cost is staggering, the impact on our communities is even worse as they now have to deal with overflowing sewerage as a result of the infrastructure that has been stolen and damaged.
I want to warn those who are committing these crimes that tampering, theft and vandalism of essential government infrastructure, is seen as a priority crime due to the extremely negative impact on the rights of communities, and as per Section 2 of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act (Act 18 0f 2015), imprisonment not exceeding 30 years and fines not exceeding R100 million are possible, when found guilty. So I want to call on our communities to please report anyone suspected of being involved in these crimes – they are stealing the services we provide to you.
That is why we are offering a reward of R20 000 from the Mayor’s Special Fund to anyone who:
Provides information that will lead to the arrest and prosecution of people who vandalise, damage, or steal essential infrastructure
Provides information that will help us recover stolen municipal property, equipment and goods that must improve residents’ lives
Speaker, the ongoing impact of the global coronavirus pandemic will continue to be felt by our residents (and the world) for some time to come. But I know that by working together, we can get through these tough times. We made it through 2020 by working together and we will make it through 2021. As a resident over 60 I was encouraged to get vaccinated and last week I sat down in the nurse’s chair and received my vaccine. It was quick, pain-free and I carried on with my day.
I want to encourage all our residents who qualify for the vaccine to please go and get one. While the vaccine rollout is a national government programme, the City is assisting with over 300 of our trained staff members administering the vaccine at more than 70 sites across the city. With sufficient herd immunity there should be no need for the continued extension of the National Disaster Regulations.
City of Cape Town, Media Office