The consideration that has been raised for voters during this General Elections 2020 is whether the elected representatives can run a town council (well). For the roughly 80% of people in Singapore who live in HDB flats, town councils and the Service & Conservancy Charges (S&CC) they charge each month is a reality of life.
But for those who never stopped to wonder what town councils are, who sets S&CC fees, how the collected money is spent, and what happens if you stop paying, then read on as we explain town councils and the S&CC they collect.
What Are Town Councils?
Established by the Town Councils Act in 1988, Town Councils are autonomous legal entities chaired by elected Members of Parliament (MPs) of the constituencies that the town is composed of.
Today, there are 16 Town Councils which are responsible for controlling, managing, maintaining and improving common HDB residential areas and commercial properties within their respective towns, including linkways, precinct pavilions, fitness corners/playgrounds, gardens, lifts, corridors and void decks.
These include conservancy and cleaning works, refuse collection, pest control, landscaping and horticultural works, repainting and re-roofing, as well as maintenance and repairs of lifts and lightings.
By agreement with HDB or other government agencies, some Town Councils may also have the responsibility over industrial property, parking spaces, markets and hawker centres located within the town.
Source: Town Council Act, Section 21
Due to the composition and role of Town Councils, they are – for better or worse – inextricably linked to politics and elected representatives in Parliament.
In order to run the Town Council, MPs can appoint additional members and form various committees, hire Town Council staff, or appoint an external service provider as managing agent to oversee day-to-day Town Council operations.
Here is the organisation structure of a typical Town Council, which can vary their according to the individual requirements of individual Town Councils:
Source: Ministry of National Development
By law, the Minister for National Development is empowered to step in and appoint someone else to perform the duties of the Town Council if the Town Council fails to maintain the estate properly, or if any duty of a Town Council must be carried out immediately to remove any imminent danger to residents.
How Are Town Council Operations Funded?
Town councils are mainly funded by S&CC collected from residents and tenants of commercial units within the town.
Furthermore, town councils receive government grants for operations and cyclical works. These include the S&CC Operating Grant, GST Subvention, Lift Maintenance Grant, and Lift Replacement Fund Matching Grant.
Source: Ministry of National Development
Town councils also maintain a Sinking Fund for long-term cyclical works, such as lift upgrading, repainting, and replacement of roofing and other essential systems. Town councils can, and do, invest surplus funds, though sometimes with unintended results.
How Much Are The Service & Conservancy Charges In Various Town Councils?
The amount of S&CC to be paid by residents is set by individual town councils. The last major revision of fees occurred on 1 June 2018, when all PAP-controlled town councils adjusted their rates.
The S&CC rates shown in the table below are subsidised rates paid by HDB units with Singaporean owners or tenants residing in them, and whose lessee and essential occupiers do not own or have any interest in any private property.
|Ang Mo Kio||$21.00||$31.00||$47.50||$63.00||$78.00||$100.00|
|Chua Chu Kang||$20.50||$31.00||$47.00||$63.50||$79.50||$99.50|
For regular (unsubsidised) rates, fees for other flat types and shops or commercial properties, please refer to the respective town councils’ websites for more information.
S&CC fees are due on the first day of each month without demand. Most common forms of payment accepted include interbank GIRO, AXS or SAM payment stations, or internet banking using DBS, UOB, OCB, cheque, or cash at HDB Branch Offices or Singapore Post branches.
As part of Budget 2020’s Care and Support Package, Singapore households will receive between 1.5 and 3 months of S&CC rebates.
Source: Singapore Budget
What Happens If You Don’t Pay Your Service & Conservancy Charges (Arrears)
All Town Councils charge a late payment fee for non-payment of S&CC fees, though some provide a grace period waiver.
However, Town Councils are empowered by the law to deal with wilful non-payment of S&CC. Failure to pay charges and interest due within 14 days of being served with a written demand will constitute an offence, liable on conviction of a fine not exceeding $1,000.
Town Councils can also undertake steps to recover arrears such as bring the case to a Small Claims Tribunal, applying to the Courts for a writ of seizure and sale of movable property belonging to the owner, and even imposing a legal charge to dispose of the flat.
Having said that, Town Councils are also known to be forgiving towards residents with financial difficulties, so rather than wait till you get served with these legal demands, please approach your Town Council or MP to highlight your difficulties and explore payment options.
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