Another Bedok hawker centre complains about extra charges: NEA

Another hawker centre in Bedok has lodged complaints with the National Environment Agency (NEA) about having to pay extra to Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) for high-area cleaning.

The agency said on Sunday night that apart from Block 511 and 538 at Bedok North, it has also received "similar feedback and concerns from hawkers at Block 630 Bedok Reservoir that AHPETC does not intend to clean areas above 2.5m".

It has also been told by contractors that for the spring cleaning of Block 209 in Kovan which starts on Monday, they will be using long poles, and not scaffolding, to clean the centre's ceiling.

All four blocks are situated in Aljunied GRC, which is held by the Workers' Party. The statement by NEA, released on Sunday night in response to media queries, was the latest in an on ongoing dispute between the government agency and AHPETC.

The Sunday Times reported last week that hawkers at Blocks 511 and 538 were unhappy about having to pay extra for cleaning, when they never had to in the past. The extra charge was apparently for erecting scaffolding for ceiling cleaning.

The NEA has since warned the AHPETC that town councils cannot charge extra for cleaning as hawkers already pay service and conservancy fees. The ceiling at Block 538 was also not cleaned during the centre's spring cleaning in March.

The AHPETC later wrote to The Straits Times Forum saying it did not clean the ceiling because scaffolding was not provided. It claimed it had been told by the NEA that the block's hawker association would put up scaffolding. On Sunday, the NEA disputed this claim. It said it had only told AHPETC that the hawker association would make "necessary arrangements" related to the erection and dismantling of scaffolding by the town council.

These arrangements, it said, referred to canvas covers to protect their stalls, which has always been paid for by hawkers themselves.

"There was no discussion on any change to the normal practice for the town council to put up and pay for the scaffoldings needed for the cleaning of ceilings during the March spring cleaning exercise at Block 538," said the NEA.