Sunday 29 July 2012

7 town councils to increase service and conservancy charges from September 2012

TODAY, 27 Jul 2012

Seven town councils will be increasing their Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) from September.

The town councils are: Bishan-Toa Payoh, Chua Chu Kang, East Coast, Holland-Bukit Panjang, Tanjong Pagar, Tampines and West Coast. The last revision was in 2004.

The increase will be phased over two years. The 1st tier increase, with effect from September, ranges from S$0.50 to S$6.50 per month for HDB one-room to executive flats home-owners.

Commercial property owners and tenants will see an increase ranging from S$0.10 to S$0.40 psm/month while the increase for most cooked stalls is between S$5.00 and S$14.00 per month.

The 2nd tier increase will start in September next year, and will range from S$0.50 to S$5.50 per month for HDB one-room to executive flats home-owners. Commercial property owners and tenants will see an increase ranging from S$0.10 to S$0.30 psm/month. The increase for most of the cooked food stalls is between S$5.00 and S$11.00 per month.

A statement issued today by Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council noted that the town councils are faced with rising costs and inflation. Despite making a "conscious effort" to control costs and expenditure, it is "increasingly difficult" to continue operations at the current S&CC rates, the statement said.

"So this year, seven Town Councils will increase their S&CCs in order to continue to serve our residents effectively while the other Town Councils which are also facing cost pressures would have to decide on the increase in the future."

One of the largest cost increase has been in electricity, with tariffs rising by almost 75 per cent between 2004 and this year. With most towns having successfully undergone the Lift Upgrading Programme, maintenance costs have also increased by 20 per cent, on average.

Increased demands for higher cleaning standards as well as efforts to improve the capabilities and incomes of local cleaners have seen cleaning costs ries by 20 per cent on average too.

"The Town Councils will continue to work closely with the Members of Parliament, Grassroots Organisations and the Community Development Councils, to help residents who may have difficulties with their S&CC payments," the statement said.

No hike for now: Aljunied-Hougang Town Council
TODAY, 28 Jul 2012

The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) has no current plans to raise service and conservancy charges (S&CC), said the Workers' Party, a day after seven People's Action Party Town Councils announced they would be raising charges for the first time in eight years.

In a media release, chairman of the AHTC Sylvia Lim noted that AHTC was "similarly affected" by the cost pressures and inflation - notably escalating electricity tariffs and higher cleaning costs - cited by the seven other town councils.

The Lift Upgrading Programme, as currently implemented, also "has long-term implications on both current and future Sinking Funds as well as routine operating costs of Town Councils", Ms Lim added.

"While the AHTC has no current plans to raise its S&CC, we are monitoring the issue of costs very closely. We are mindful that in the current inflationary environment, residents are similarly facing cost increases on their own as well.

"Nonetheless, the AHTC needs to recover its expenditures throgh the collection of S&CC and if costs continue to escalate, the time may come when AHTC will need to review its S&CC. However, we will first attempt to exhaust all means to reduce expenditures through better efficiency and ride out the difficult time with the support of our residents," said Ms Lim.

In 2010, Aljunied was one of two Town Councils to raise S&CC, but after the WP took over the running of the Town Council, it cut charges last year.

The seven town councils raising S&CC from September are Bishan-Toa Payoh, Choa Chu Kang, East Coast, Holland-Bukit Panjang, Tanjong Pagar, Tampines and West Coast.

7 town councils to raise fees
Citing rising costs, some town councils will raise S&CC, flat dwellers to pay S$1 to S$12 more
by Teo Xuanwei, TODAY, 28 Jul 2012

A whopping rise in electricity tariffs. More spending on lift maintenance post-upgrading. A spike in cleaning costs with efforts to improve standards and the lot of workers.

These are the key reasons why seven town councils will be raising service and conservancy charges (S&CC) for HDB flats, shops, offices and cooked food stalls for the first time in eight years. The hike, which will be made in two phases in September this year and next, will see HDB flat-dwellers pay between S$1 and S$12 more, depending on the flat type(see table).

The town councils raising the S&CC are Bishan-Toa Payoh, Choa Chu Kang, East Coast, Holland-Bukit Panjang, Tanjong Pagar, Tampines and West Coast. They provide services for around 350,000 flats.

In a joint press release yesterday, they said: "We have been making a conscious effort to control our costs and expenditures to avoid increasing the S&CC rates, despite rising inflation every year. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue our operations at current S&CC rates.

"So this year, seven town councils will increase their S&CCs in order to continue to serve residents effectively while the other town councils which are also facing cost pressures would have to decide on the increase in the future."

The fee increase comes as inflation remains stubborn - the Monetary Authority of Singapore narrowed its forecast range from 3.5-4.5 per cent, to 4-4.5 per cent on Thursday. Yesterday's announcement also raises questions as to whether eight other town councils will soon follow suit.


Even as global oil prices have fallen by about 14 per cent from the start of the year - leading to a 2.5-per-cent drop in electricity tariffs this month - the rise in power prices over the years appears to have outstripped measures, such as installing energy-saving devices, town councils have implemented.

The town councils said electricity tariffs jumped by nearly 75 per cent (16.53 cents per kWh to 28.78 cents per kWh) since they last adjusted their S&CC in 2004.

"This has had a great impact on the town councils as utilities account for more than 35 per cent of our overall operating cost," they said, adding that electricity consumption was also "likely to increase with the installation of more amenities as we invest into our estate and the well-being of the community".

That most towns have undergone the Lift Upgrading Programme has ironically contributed to this latest fee hike too: "The number of lifts we maintain has increased and all upgraded lifts now stop on every floor," said the town councils.

This has led to an average 20 per cent spike in maintenance costs, not mentioning the rise in prices of replacement parts.

Cleaning costs, which takes up 15 per cent of the town councils' annual expenditure, has "also increased steadily".

They said: "Increased demands for higher cleaning standards (and) efforts to improve the capabilities and incomes of our local cleaners to meet specific performance standards resulted in new cleaning contract rates seeing an average increase of 20 per cent."


The question remains: Do these reasons not affect the other seven People's Action Party-managed and one Workers' Party-managed town councils?

Yesterday, in response to TODAY's queries, Jurong Town Council general manager Ho Thian Poh said its S&CC hike in 2010 - together with Aljunied, it raised rates by between 50 cents and S$4.50, depending on flat type - has meant its operations "are sustainable at this moment".

He added that installing LED lights to the whole town to save on energy costs has helped too.

Another town council benefitting from using energy-saving devices is Ang Mo Kio. Its chairman Dr Lam Pin Min said it has upgraded its lamps gradually over the years.

Last year, some residents in Ang Mo Kio had their fees reduced, and the Workers' Party also cut charges in Aljunied-Hougang Town Council after it took over.

The WP is expected to issue a media release on the S&CC revision by the seven town councils today.

When TODAY asked those that have not raised S&CC whether they would do so in the near future, the responses were non-committal. Dr Lam said it "will try to keep our S&CC low as long as possible by exercising strict financial prudence", but also said the "cost pressures faced by town councils are very real and challenging".

Marine Parade Town Council chairman Lim Biow Chuan said it is not revising S&CC at this moment. "However, we are monitoring our finances closely ... While we are facing the same cost pressure as the other town councils, (we) will try to manage our expenses within the income collected."

Mr Lim also added: "Each town is unique and the estates under each town council's management differ, such as the age of buildings and number of lifts serving each block. Therefore, the costs of maintenance differ."

The seven town councils that have raised fees said they will "continue to do our utmost to manage our expenditure carefully and explore new cost-saving measures ... and to leverage on bulk procurements to enjoy greater economies of scale".

They also pledged to work with MPs, grassroots organisations and community development councils (CDC) to help those who may have difficulties with their S&CC payments. Already, MPs for Tampines GRC have secured help for residents who are already on financial aid. North East CDC will give out subsidies to these beneficiaries for six months. The sum will vary according to flat types.

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