High rentals push council out of LNDC building

MASERU – The Maseru City Council (MCC) has been forced to move out of its Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) head office because of skyrocketing monthly rentals, the Lesotho Times heard this week.
MCC spokesperson, Lintle Moerane, said the municipality had taken the decision to move out as a cost cutting measure.
“It is common knowledge that even the government itself is cutting costs because times are hard, why can’t we do the same,” Moerane said.
She said after the MCC vacated some floors at the LNDC building it is now paying only M80 000 in rentals per month, down from the previous M250 000.
“At least we have cut unnecessary expenditure,” she said on Friday.
The MCC was paying M250 000 monthly to the LNDC for occupying the entire Block C at the office complex situated along Kingsway Street.
The municipality which had all its departments housed at the Block C of the LNDC Development House has now relocated seven of them to different locations in the city.
Beginning June 1 the council’s departments of planning, works, parks and recreation, and health and environment are now housed at the Lesotho Housing and Land Development Corporation, a parastatal directly under the Ministry of Local Government.
The city’s reserve chief, who in charge of areas without substantive chiefs, and those administering cemeteries have also been transferred to Fraser’s Memorial Hall, which is wholly owned by the municipality.
Moerane said the LNDC paid the council M1.8 million for ground rates after every six months but the city gives it back M1.5 million as rental.
The council was therefore receiving a balance of only M300 000.
“We were receiving mere change from the LNDC,” Moerane said.
“The council could not afford to pay that amount of money during this time when the whole world has been hit by the financial depression,” she said.
Sources within the council say the MCC went into to panic mode after Finance Minister Timothy Thahane announced in his February budget speech that the government was experiencing financial problems and there was going to be major cost-cutting measures throughout all departments.
That meant the government was going to cut the annual subvention it gives to the MCC while many of its financial proposals for various projects were turned down due to lack of funds.
The sources said the ground rates the MCC is collecting from buildings in the city as well as other levies charged on services are not enough to cover costs of running the city.
“The MCC is not collecting enough revenue because it provides services that require payment to a few well developed villages,” a source said.
“The council is spending a lot of money on companies that collect waste around the city but it collects very little revenue from residents for this service,” said the source.
“This is because the city has only a few planned villages where waste collection can be easily done and revenue for it gets collected.”
The source added: “Only less than 10 villages in Maseru are well planned and it is only in those villages where the council can claim levy for services.”
In 2004 the council announced that all households in Maseru, including those people living in rented houses, would each pay M40 a month for services such as waste collection.The residents resisted saying the council was not doing enough to run the city properly.
MCC was then forced to dump plans to introduce waste collection measures from residents in almost all villagers except in Maseru West, Happy Villa, Lower Thetsane, White City, Hill’s View, New Europa, Old Europa, Florida and Maseru East which are the city’s only well planned villages.
Apart from receiving subvention from the government and collecting ground levies the MCC relies on proceeds from street vendors’ monthly charges and toilet paper sales from public toilets.
The Lesotho Times understands that revenue collected from these sources cannot be relied upon because the majority of sellers are unlicensed. Moerane said it was difficult to tell how much the MCC collects from vendors and toilets because the amount fluctuates.

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