Channel NewsAsia: Opposition MP urges MND to reveal town council benefits from upgrading programmes

By S Ramesh


Opposition MP Low Thia Khiang

SINGAPORE: Opposition MP for Hougang, Low Thia Khiang, has called on the Ministry of National Development to let the public know how much each town council has benefited from various upgrading programmes from the time they were started.

These are the Interim Upgrading Programme (IUP), Main Upgrading Programme (MUP) and Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) funds.

In his latest salvo on the Town Council Management Report released recently, Mr Low said in a statement on Thursday that he had asked in Parliament, and again on June 14, for the information on the amount of funding to be made public.

But he said he was disappointed that the ministry had kept silent on this.

Mr Low was replying to several points made by Senior Minister of State for National Development, Grace Fu, in her statement released on Wednesday.

Ms Fu had said that Mr Low was using the town council report to pursue his political objectives.

The opposition MP now argues that the PAP government has spent huge sums of money over the years to upgrade HDB flats in PAP constituencies. He said this has benefited the PAP town councils immensely.

As a result, he said these town councils could have saved substantial sums of expenditure in cyclical works and routine maintenance. And the savings, he argued, would have contributed to the operating surplus and higher sinking funds over the years.

So Mr Low felt that the public should know how much additional funding is given to the town councils of the PAP wards – directly or indirectly – through the upgrading programmes.

He said Singaporeans can then judge for themselves whether this could affect the outcome of the town management and financial position of the town council.

– CNA/al

Posted in 2010 06. Comments Off on Channel NewsAsia: Opposition MP urges MND to reveal town council benefits from upgrading programmes

TODAY: Low Thia Khiang suggests two new criteria for town council reports

LEONG WEE KIAT
weekeat@mediacorp.com

SINGAPORE – Amid a debate on how future Town Council Management Reports can be fine-tuned, Opposition Member of Parliament Low Thia Khiang has suggested adding two more new criteria: The extent of Government funding that each town council receives and the amount of service and conservancy charges (S&CC) it has written off.

Mr Low said the Government funding should include the amount received – either directly or indirectly – to improve common areas the town council manage.

Grade 5 – the lowest score – should be given to the town council which receives the most funding or has the biggest S&CC amount written off, added the Workers’ Party chief.

Mr Low made these suggestions yesterday in response to Senior Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu’s comments.

On Sunday, Ms Fu had rebutted Mr Low’s earlier comments that Opposition wards were disadvantaged as they were at the end of the queues for various upgrading programmes. Ms Fu also said the criteria for HDB’s upgrading programmes are clear and not all People’s Action Party (PAP) wards qualify for them, too.

In a press statement yesterday, Mr Low accused Ms Fu of “sidetracking the issue” and “attempting to mislead Singaporeans (into) believing that the PAP Government is fair to all town councils, including those managed by Opposition parties”.

“Is she saying that upgrading programmes have no impact and implication on estate maintenance?” he said.

Mr Low argued that upgrading programmes “do not just build additional facilities” but also include upgrading of common areas like common corridor and replacement of lift lobby tiles as well as upgrading of playgrounds.

“If the staircase railing is replaced with stainless steel railing instead of the existing mild steel railing inherited from the HDB as part of the upgrading programme, one will not expect the railing to become rusty and corroded to become a maintenance issue.”

In the first Town Council Management Report (TCMR) ever released last week, maintenance – such as the condition of wall tiles and playgrounds – was an area where no town council scored the top grade of 1.

While almost all PAP town councils scored a grade of 3 – the exception being Ang Mo Kio-Yio Chu Kang Town Council which received a 2 rating – Hougang scored a 4 and Potong Pasir was awarded a grade of 5 – the lowest possible score.

Another area that has come under scrutiny is over the management of S&CC arrears. While PAP town councils scored 1s and 2s for arrears management, Hougang and Potong Pasir both scored 5s in this area.

Mr Low felt that PAP Town Councils manage arrears better because they have more surpluses due to additional funding received through upgrading programmes. Thus, these town councils are able to use their own funds to help residents pay S&CC arrears by offering them part-time employment.

“However, the more serious question is whether this is fair to other residents who pay promptly,” Mr Low said.

When contacted yesterday, the Ministry of National Development said: “We would like to reiterate that it is inappropriate to compare the TCMR results across towns. Town Councils should use the TCMR as a basis for discussion with their residents and to monitor the performance of towns over time.”

Posted in 2010 06. Comments Off on TODAY: Low Thia Khiang suggests two new criteria for town council reports

Channel NewsAsia: Low Thia Khiang suggests two more new criteria to assess town councils

By Leong Wee Keat

SINGAPORE: Amid a debate on how future Town Council Management Reports can be fine-tuned, opposition leader Low Thia Khiang has suggested adding two more new criteria: the extent of government funding that each town council receives and the amount of service and conservancy charges (S&CC) it has written off.

Mr Low, who is also the chairman of Hougang Town Council, made these suggestions on Tuesday in response to comments by Senior Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu.

On Sunday, Ms Fu had rebutted Mr Low’s earlier comments that opposition wards were disadvantaged as they were at the end of the queues for various upgrading programmes.

Ms Fu also said the criteria for HDB’s upgrading programmes are clear and not all People’s Action Party (PAP) wards qualify too.

In a press statement, Mr Low accused Ms Fu of “sidetracking the issue” and “attempting to mislead Singaporeans (into) believing that the PAP government is fair to all town councils, including those managed by opposition parties”.

“Is she saying that upgrading programmes have no impact and implication on estate maintenance?” the Workers’ Party (WP) chief asked.

Mr Low argued that upgrading programmes “do not just build additional facilities” but also include upgrading of common areas like common corridor and replacement of lift lobby tiles as well as upgrading of playgrounds.

“One will not expect to find missing or worn off screws, nor floor mat being ripped off in new playgrounds,” Mr Low added.

“If the staircase railing is replaced with stainless steel railing instead of the existing mild steel railing inherited from the HDB as part of the upgrading programme, one will not expect the railing to become rusty and corroded to become a maintenance issue.”

In the inaugural Town Council Management Report released last week, maintenance – such as the condition of wall tiles and playgrounds – was an area where no town council got the top grade of one.

While almost all PAP town councils got 3s – the exception being Ang Mo Kio-Yio Chu Kang Town Council which got a 2 – Hougang got a 4 and Potong Pasir got a 5.

Another bone of contention appears to be over the management of S&CC arrears.

While PAP town councils scored 1s and 2s for arrears management, Hougang and Potong Pasir both scored 5s in this area.

Mr Low felt that PAP town councils manage arrears better, because they have more surpluses due to additional funding received through upgrading programmes.

Thus, these town councils are able to use their own funds to help residents pay S&CC arrears by offering part-time employment.

“However, the more serious question is whether this is fair to other residents who pay promptly,” Mr Low said.

When contacted, the Ministry of National Development said: “We would like to reiterate that it is inappropriate to compare the TCMR results across towns. Town councils should use the TCMR as a basis for discussion with their residents and to monitor the performance of towns over time.” – CNA/ir

Posted in 2010 06. Comments Off on Channel NewsAsia: Low Thia Khiang suggests two more new criteria to assess town councils