The recent taxi strike that impacted Cape Town, George and parts of the Western Cape has brought into sharp focus the role of community safety operations at local government level. The City of Cape Town has progressively improved their operational capacity of their traffic, law enforcement and emergency services.
In George, we are also ramping up these services to ensure a safe environment for our citizens. As we continue our implementation of upgrading in technology, CCTV cameras and the control room, we experience the benefits. In due course, the staffing complement will also grow.
The Council has consciously decided to spend more of the revenue generated from the Rates account on safety in protecting municipal assets and our communities. The Rates revenue funds a variety of services outside of the core services, as are mentioned below.
The maintenance and upgrading of streets and stormwater systems receives ongoing attention according to planned maintenance guidelines. Additional funding will be required to be spent once the construction on the large basic services infrastructure projects have reached completion stages. The cleaning of streets and the upkeep of parks are visible examples of Rates funded services.
An example of where George will play a facilitating role is in providing access to leisure time activities for our youth. This is one of the needs identified in the Planet Youth survey of youths in grade 8 and 9 to analyse the risks and harms that they encounter outside of school hours. The project objective is to improve their health and wellness over the years. Similarly, we provide facilities and assistance in the promotion of community sport, vegetable gardens, soup kitchens and to relieve the plight of under-privileged citizens.
The work we undertake to promote economic development and tourism is also funded through Rates revenue.
Following the devastating effect of loadshedding in the 2022/23 financial year which reduced Electricity revenue by R214m (or 22% of budgeted revenue from Electricity), the contribution from Electricity to the Rates account had effectively disappeared. After Council had approved reduced budgeted operational expenditure for 2023/24, where practicable, across all services, there remained a shortfall. To ensure that municipal services funded through the Rates Account could be maintained at the high standard expected by customers, an above inflation increase in property rates was implemented.
For the 2023/24 financial year, the new municipal property valuations have been implemented. A recent StatsSA survey has shown that residential selling prices for property in the Western Cape (and George) have risen markedly relative to the rest of the country, with valuations following that trend. To soften the increases a reduction of 28,8% has been applied to the rate in the Rand for residential property rates.