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16. 01. 12. - 15:55

Vienna mayor pledges fee freeze

The mayor of Vienna has promised to stop jacking up public service charges this year.

Michael Häupl of the Social Democrats (SPÖ) told newspaper Die Presse yesterday (Sun) that the city government would make "no new suggestions" for higher fees or charges in 2012. He said: "What was agreed on last year must be carried out."

The People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Freedom Party (FPÖ) accused the city’s coalition of SPÖ and Greens of ripping off residents by increasing the price for various parking tickets as well as charges dog owners have to pay.

The government of the city – which suffered a 4.8 per cent rise in unemployment last month – also came under fire for raising a charge colloquially known as U-Bahn tax. Revenues are generated from companies and spent on the capital’s public transport infrastructure. Austria’s first SPÖ-Greens partnership also jacked up tap water supply charges, waste disposal fees and taxes hotels have to pay per overnight stay.

Some of the increases became effective at the beginning of this month while other tax hikes will be felt later in 2012. SPÖ Vienna and the city’s Green Party department announced in October of last year that the price for an annual public transport ticket would drop from 449 to 365 Euros as of May 2012. At the same time, single tickets and weekly passes would become dearer.

A controversial provincial law allows the city’s coalition to increase public service fees if the federal inflation rises. Häupl rejected claims that this regulation had negative effects on people’s purchasing power. Speaking to Die Presse, the mayor stressed that Vienna was recently identified as the best city to live in in the world in a study for the third year in a row.

Häupl said he was "not spending a thought" on freezing the incomes of Vienna’s civil servants. Styrian decision-makers kept the public servants’ wages unchanged compared to 2011 despite a federal agreement to raise them by 2.95 per cent. Upper Austria’s civil servants’ salaries rose by only 1.95 per cent. Provincial unionist said last week they accepted the smaller increase. Works council chiefs initially considered issuing an appeal to down tools to force Upper Austria’s People’s Party (ÖVP)-Green Party administration to change its mind.

Häupl told Die Presse he was convinced that the federal SPÖ-ÖVP government would manage to spend two billion Euros less a year by 2017. "Two billion Euros are not a lot considering our GDP (gross domestic product)," Häupl – who became mayor of the capital in 1994 – said. Asked whether he considered fronting his party’s next city election campaign, the SPÖ Vienna chief said that "everything indicates that this will be the case."

Vienna’s 1.7 million residents will elect a new city parliament in 2015. The most recent ballot took place in October 2010. The SPÖ opted for a coalition with the Greens of Maria Vassilakou after the election served up losses for both left-wing factions. It was the first time except a five-year partnership with the ÖVP that the city’s Social Democrats had to seek partners to form a government coalition. Strong performances ever since the end of the war enabled the SPÖ to form teams of city councillors featuring only Social Democrats.

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