Qualms around SRA board election

Concerned Llandudno residents have expressed concern over “irregularities” in the election of the Llandudno Special Ratings Area (SRA) board.

In addition, they have raised questions over a proposed survey to investigate the feasibility of measures to counter the drought crisis in Llandudno, and how this will impact on SRA levies.

These residents believe the current board is using “emotive issues” such as the drought and crime to justify drawing the maximum levy they can from residents.

SRA chairperson Kiki Bond-Smith said the allegations of irregularity were being taken “very seriously, but obviously allegations themselves do not make it true”.

She has also pointed out the board enjoys the support of the broader community in many of its decision-making processes.

The alleged irregularities pertain to the SRA’s annual general meeting of November 6 last year, where it was explained that the number of permanent board members had been set at a maximum of eight directors.

However, according to the concerned residents, the business plan for the period between July 2014 and June 2019, which was amended for the period between July 2017 and June 2019, states that the board should comprise a minimum of five and a maximum of 11 directors.

They also pointed out that the minutes of the AGM state that board members Greg Wright and Wes Corbett had been co-opted during the year, and as their term of office ended at the AGM, they were up for re-election. However, they said the SRA’s Memorandum of Incorporation stated that co-opted additional directors could only remain in office until the AGM following their appointment.

Consequently, said resident Robin Meyerowitz, these men were not available to be re-elected as they were co-opted, and not elected. He added that no nominations for either of them had been announced at the AGM.

The residents’ concerns have been compounded in that two of their representatives, Sandi Brittz Andrew McNulty, were nominated as directors, yet were not elected. They say they were told the reason for this was that the board already had their eight directors, which included the two co-opted members who were not actually nominated at the AGM.

But the residents feel that Ms Brittz and Mr McNulty were overlooked because they have expressed a number of concerns
in the past over levy hikes, particularly relating to expenditure on crime.

“There are a lot of bullying tactics, and they don’t want anyone on the board with opposing views,” Ms Brittz said.

Among the concerned residents group’s reservations is that tactical response company PPA Security was brought on board to patrol Llandudno at an alleged cost of
R180 000 a month, yet they say there has been no significant increase in crime statistics in the past two years.

The group has also voiced concern about potential water plans for Llandudno, discussed at an informal meeting held at Llandudno Primary School last month.

While the meeting took place before the announcement that Day Zero would probably not happen this year, it was recommended that a feasibility study over desalination and borehole-to-reservoir schemes and a number of other measures be undertaken, the residents said.

They said this would come at an approximate cost of R300 000, and the estimated impact on SRA levies would be
R95 a resident for 12 months. The cost estimate was based on a house valued at R10 million.

This amount would be added onto the amount that the residents were currently paying for the security levy, which was already more than R700 a month, Ms Brittz said.

“At the moment, the SRA is collecting 9% of our current rates as their levy, but in terms of the MOI, they can take this levy up to 25%. On rates of R8 000 a month, that would mean an additional R2 000 a month,” she said.

“I suggested the R300 000 they want for the water feasibility study should come out of the security levy, but I was told that a contract was signed with the security company which states there is a six-month penalty clause if the contract is broken.

“It seems to me that the board is looking to push up the levy to the maximum they can get from the residents, and they are using emotive issues to do it. First it was the crime, now it’s the drought.”

Resident Glyn Ruck said one of the biggest “selling points” of the SRA when it was first mooted four years ago was that levy increases would not be above the consumer price index.

“We now have a situation where pensioners who have lived in Llandudno for decades can no longer afford to stay here, and are being pushed out because they can’t afford the rates and levies,” he said.

Ms Bond-Smith said the SRA always preferred that board members’ names were not mentioned outside the community and AGMs. “Otherwise it makes it difficult to attract new residents to volunteer their unpaid time to support the community when internal issues try to get resolved in the press,” she said.

In respect of the alleged voting irregularities, she said voting took place in an open public meeting with City officials present, and that only two homeowners levelled the allegations, “one of whom was nominated to be part of the SRA board and unfortunately failed to secure sufficient votes”.

She added that the SRA had already met with the complainants with a third party mediator, and the LSRA agreed to make all documentation available.

Since the allegations were only made on Monday March 18, work of the mediator was ongoing and had not yet been reviewed by the City.

She said it was “highly unnecessary” for the complainants to to have gone to the media when the review process had just started.

Turning to the security issue, Ms Bond-Smith said despite the “passionately debated” security budget increase of 2016, when the same budget needed to be revalidated in 2017, it was unanimously approved at the subsequent AGM.

“(This gives) the board a good indication that there is great support for the significant security improvements undertaken … and the results they have achieved.

“The budgeted amount for the security response is not representative of what is paid to the security company themselves, as there are many other sundry items included in that budget line-item related to security response. Regardless, the board requested that all community members keep those financial numbers presented at the AGM, confidential.”

As far as the water crisis issue was concerned, she said, it was only “broadly proposed” that a professional engineering study would need to be contracted before any serious debate could be held on a potential solution …. “should it become necessary”.

“It was guessed that such a study would be costly; and spending even the money for a study would require another formal meeting to discuss further – and then a following formal meeting to vote whether to do the study or not.

“Since the board is currently seeking quotes for such a study to present to the community for debate, it has been requested that residents not share the costs being estimated, as that would make the bidding process less competitive.”

Ms Bond-Smith said all the issues raised by the “opposition group” had been exhaustively debated
at the AGMs and on social media.

“In the end, the vast majority of the community still supports the board, as attested to by the voting records.

“The board wishes the opposition would believe that dissenting and minority points of view are actively sought, and well represented on the board. However, the board continually notes in their meetings that they have a duty to also seek and adhere to the wishes of the greater community and the Memorandum of Inclusion, not personal positions or the counter demands of a vocal minority.”