Ensuring Town Councils do not lose sight of its core objectives
I am encouraged by the new section 19(4) curbing substantial trading or financial activities. This new addition reinforces the spirit of the Act – that town councils should not lose sight of its core objective – which is to manage the living conditions of residents, and not take on ancillary activities, which may not necessarily contribute, directly to the interests of residents.
Having said that, can the Minister clarify what exactly is meant by “substantial trading or financial activities”? Will the Ministry be publishing clearer guidelines with regard to this?
Cooperating with statutory boards
Next, with regard to the interaction between town councils and statutory boards. According to Section 21A, town councils must comply with any directions from statutory boards, so long as the directions belong to the broad categories in the section. The failure to comply would result in a criminal conviction.
While this section ensures that statutory boards may carry out their work efficiently, it does not appear to provide any firm platform for a town council to raise its concerns or reject a direction from a statutory board on reasonable grounds.
In this regard, can the Minister clarify if there are such guarantees in place for town councils to raise their concerns about directions from statutory boards?
Next, I note that the Minister may pass model by-laws, and town councils can amend the model by-law and pass its own by-laws. However by-laws made by town councils must not be “inconsistent” with the model by-laws. The Bill further states that model by-laws could be made at any point in time.
How will the Ministry determine if the by-laws are “inconsistent”? Who will determine this and is there an appeal process? Can the Minister provide more clarifications about the model by-laws and whether a draft will be released to the town councils for our inputs and feedback soon?
I have no doubt that by-laws set by the Minister would be done in the best interests of the residents. However, we need to have sight of what the model by-laws would be, and knowledge of whether consultations and the frequency of which would take place.
Finally, I note that this Bill does not address the issue of the handing and taking over of sinking funds when there is a change in the management of town councils.
As members of the House are aware of, different town councils may adopt different calculation methods of how much sinking fund is to be transferred, whether it is by the number of blocks in precincts or by the unused balance sinking fund. May I take this chance to request for the Ministry to study this matter and amend or pass the relevant laws to resolve this matter, thereby providing clarity to the relevant parties moving forward.
Madam, notwithstanding the comments made above and clarifications requested, I stand in support of the Bill.