20140416 Pasir Ris Punggol HDB residents should not be paying increased S & CC

To Pasir Ris/Punggol HDB residents

In February, 8 PAP town councils jointly announced that our sercive and conservancy (S&CC) will be revised. ‘Rising costs’ was again cited to justify the hike.

I have written to the TC chairman, MP Sapari, and listed a number of factors which the TC had not considered before implementing the hike. The issue is not about forking out a few extra dollars every month but one where we, residents who will be paying for the increase over decades, have never been engaged. The government has always suka suka increased fees at citizens’ expense. (A and E fees recently increased, public transportation, university fees, what next?)

By simply announcing the increase, it means a decision had already been made without any consultation with stakeholders. Similar to the population white paper, the decision is also irreversible. As residents, should we continue to allow the TC to ride roughshod over our interests? If this is allowed, what is there to prevent the TC from implementing another hike a few years down the road?

Consider these factors and you will understand why you should not be paying.

1 The TC cited rising costs to justify the increase. If that was true, the government grant should not have been reduced from $10.8 million in FY 2012 to $8.8 million in FY 2013. The government seems to have abdicated its responsibility to maintain public areas. It appears our increased S & CC is partly due to a reduced government grant.

In line with rising costs, the government grant should have increased to say $11/12 million. Other than the interior of our flat, which is leased from the HDB, all other areas are accessible to the public. The $8.8 million government grant is certainly insufficient for maintaining public areas and residents have been shortchanged.

2 We have been informed our S & CC has not been increased for a decade to mislead us into thinking we should be grateful. What’s more revealing is the amount of our surpluses amounting to about $17.6 million. (including those transferred to the sinking fund) The TC did not use our contributions for our benefit but transfer them to the sinking fund for future political gains. We have already been overpaying for more than a decade!

3 The sinking fund has already met its statutory limit of 35% of S & CC. Under the Town Councils Act, Section 34, 80% of surpluses must be transferred into the sinking fund if the same political party wins the election but 100% if won by a different political party. The TC is not really interested in serving our interests but playing politics with our money.

4 The TC Act has proven to be detrimental to residents’ interests. If the government is sincere in looking after our interests, it must amend the TC Act.

5 There is an obvious conflict of interest in the structure of our TC. The MP cannot be representing the TC (as town councilor/chairman etc), his constituents (as MP) as well as the government. It is a fact that our government has always prioritised its business interests above all else and we, residents, will always be getting the short end of the stick.

6 Notice there are no convincing statistics provided by the TC to support the rate hike. All it has done is make a few statements and expect residents to trust them. Unfortunately, trust is in short supply.

One of the reasons cited for the hike is the increase in the cost of lift maintenance. Under the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP), lifts now stop on every floor. Unlike many older estates, almost all the blocks in Pasir Ris already have lifts stopping on every floor! Residents have therefore been misled into thinking our costs have increased significantly due to the LUP.

7 Since the TC has acted arbitrarily in forcing residents to pay higher S & CC, I have been paying a lot more attention at TC operations and made a number of queries. On the TC’s website, it has not updated its FAQ section for many years. The first 2 FAQs are related to the $4 million invested in Lehman’s linked product. It has been 6 years but the TC appears not interested to reveal the exact amount lost to residents.

I queried the TC on this issue but it has refused to provide an answer. This despite subsequent complaints to the PMO last month. Why should Pasir Ris Punggol TC not state the losses? Is there something to hide like maybe it has lost the entire $4 million? Did the TC lose $4 million in investments and is therefore raising the S & CC to make up for the shortfall?

Conclusion

The TC has abused its power by arbitrarily increasing our S & CC despite having surpluses every year. It cited rising costs to increase our S & CC but did not raise the issue of the $2 million reduction in government grants from the previous year. If the TC did not make huge losses in the $4 million investment, why has there been no disclosure? It appears our S & CC has been increased to make up for the loss.

Phillip Ang

PS

Although we have been informed that surpluses have been decreasing, PAP town councils’ surplus actually increased from $43 million to $48 million! The drop in surpluses was due to millions transferred to the sinking fund. Present S & CC is actually sufficient for estate maintenance, provided public areas are responsibly maintained by the government. http://thehearttruths.com/2014/03/04/increasing-scc-the-government-making-singaporeans-pay-more-to-earn-from-us/ There are more convincing facts in Roy’s article which the government could not rebutt.

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