Sunday 23 March 2014

Workers' Party-run town council to raise S&CC for 5 wards

First time town council is hiking charges since GE
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 22 Mar 2014

THE Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) will raise service and conservancy charges (S&CC) for five of its wards from next month.

This is the first time the Workers' Party-run town council is raising the charges, which go towards estate maintenance, since it took over the management of Aljunied GRC following the 2011 General Election.

The change will kick in at the same time as a similar S&CC hike for eight town councils run by the People's Action Party, though AHPETC residents who had paid in advance by yesterday will be charged the new rate only when their next payment is due.

There will be no change in rates for citizens living in one- and two-room flats. But for citizens living in other flat types, the increase ranges from $3.50 to $10.

The hike affects four of five divisions in Aljunied - Bedok Reservoir-Punggol, Serangoon, Paya Lebar and Eunos - and the Hougang single-member constituency.

In a letter to residents announcing the revision yesterday, AHPETC chairman Sylvia Lim said the council is "similarly affected" by the conditions of rising costs and inflation faced by other town councils.

The rates for Hougang were last revised in 2007.

When AHPETC took over the management of Aljunied GRC, it harmonised the S&CC rates between Aljunied and Hougang, resulting in a reduction for some room types, she added.

"While AHPETC is mindful that any increase in S&CC will affect residents, the TC (town council) had to consider what was needed for projected routine and sinking fund commitments," she said.

Ms Lim said the town council expects to spend more on maintaining and operating lifts as the ongoing Lift Upgrading Programme will increase the number of lifts in the estate.

More sinking funds will also be needed to replace these lifts in the long run, she added.

Electricity consumption, which accounts for almost 30 per cent of annual operating costs, is expected to "increase substantially" after the lifts have been upgraded, she said. Tariffs went up by over 10 per cent in the last three years.

Cleaning costs will also go up due to the "significant impact" of spikes in tender prices, the impending increase in Central Provident Fund employer contribution rates, workers' levy and the drive to improve cleaners' wages, she said.

More amenities like fitness corners and linkways will also add to the increase.

Ms Lim said in her letter that while AHPETC has no control over external drivers of cost hikes, it would monitor costs and improve work processes to maximise cost savings, without sacrificing standards.

She did not reply to further queries yesterday.

Bank officer Seng Hwee Peng, 52, who lives in a four-room flat in Serangoon, said the $5 rise he faces is "quite a jump" but added: "I understand and I do appreciate that the town council reduced S&CC when they took over and have not increased since then."

However, he asked if the hike would be manageable for residents who are retirees or are unemployed.

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