The City of Cape Town says it will continue to provide assistance to qualifying residents who cannot afford to pay their rates and services and has urged them to come forward to receive relief.

Neilson said in the current financial year, the City had made close to R3bn available to provide rates rebates and indigent relief to qualifying residents, adding that the proposed funding for social assistance in the next financial year was currently being discussed as part of the budget process.

"Residents who are unable to pay for basic services are encouraged to make representations to the City for relief, and for those who are struggling to pay their municipal accounts to enter into an agreed arrangement or installment plan to pay off their arrears.

"The funds form part of the city's indigent grant which was established to assist struggling individuals, pensioners, businesses, people with disabilities, sports clubs, and non-profit organisations (NPOs) to continue to receive their basic city services such as water and refuse collection.A number of criteria is considered when applying for indigent support. These may be based on monthly salary, employment status, whether you are a full-time occupant of your home or whether you are a senior citizen or a person with a disability.

MEC for finance in the province, Ian Neilson, said it was detrimental to the City's finances when people ignored their debt."Ignoring debt is not the solution. Hoping that the debt will go away or ignoring the problem is not the answer and there is help on offer," he said.Neilson also urged those who are able to pay to do so, saying it was important that "we all contribute our fair share for services".

Disconnection 'a last resort'

He said those who had the means to pay but refused to do so needed to realise that their decision had a marked impact on the sustainability of the City."If any resident's water is restricted, electricity supply disconnected, prepaid electricity purchases limited or if legal action is instituted against them, this is done as a last resort. 

"This only occurs if residents have ignored all the notices sent to them and they have not made any attempt to obtain assistance from the City."

Neilson added that "a culture of payment must be instilled in all those who can afford to do so".   People who might qualify for assistance are encouraged to visit this website to apply.