BULAWAYO City Council has started consulting residents and the business community on budget proposals for next year.
The meetings that started over the weekend and are being addressed by councillors as well as senior management at the local authority, are meant to solicit input from ratepayers ahead of the budget formulation process.
What has emerged from the meetings so far is that Bulawayo residents want council to prioritise the provision of clean water.
Residents at one of the meetings at McDonald Hall in Mzilikazi on Sunday said the prolonged water cuts had seen more people suffering from water-borne diseases, particularly in Ward 8 that covers Mzilikazi, Thorngrove, Barbourfields, Nguboyenja and Burombo.
There were also complaints that council was no longer attending to burst sewer pipes on time resulting in effluent constantly flowing on streets and storm drains.
Residents urged the local authority to attend to street lighting to reduce crimes committed under the cover of darkness, which they indicated were on the increase.
Council was called upon to fix roads in high-density areas, including some that have not been repaired for over a decade.
The local authority has not been able to collect garbage due to financial constraints.
All these issues raised by residents speak to council’s budget and charges it can pass on to ratepayers.
The officials, during these consultations, must be able to give simple explanations to residents on what the implications of their wish lists are.
These budget consultations come at a time when council is reeling from a directive by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo to cancel all debts accrued between 2009 and June this year.
Since the directive, council has noted a decline in the number of people settling their bills on time and it would be prudent for the city fathers to take this opportunity to emphasise to residents the need to pay for services rendered to them.
However, what is more crucial during these consultations should be a commitment by council to take ratepayers’ input seriously for them to have ownership of the budget.
If residents do not have a buy-in, council will continue to face resistance to its budgets and the problem of ratepayers who do not pay their bills.