Changes to all but one of 16 town councils

HDB flats in Hougang.
HDB flats in Hougang.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Singapore has continued to have 16 town councils managing public housing estates, following the general election results.

But only one remains unchanged - Tampines Town Council, according to a Ministry of National Development (MND) statement yesterday. Two are new and 13 have been reconstituted as a result of the redrawing of electoral boundaries for the Sept 11 polls.

And unlike before, no single-seat constituency will have its own town council. Potong Pasir constituency, which held the distinctive title before the polls, will now be part of Jalan Besar Town Council.

Also, at least three town councils are set to be helmed by first-time MPs: Mr Chong Kee Hiong at Bishan-Toa Payoh, Mr Melvin Yong at Tanjong Pagar and Mr Louis Ng at Nee Soon. Their jobs and grassroots experience, coupled with support from senior MPs, will stand them in good stead, they said.

Mr Chong, 49, said his job as chief executive of OUE Hospitality Reit Management will come in handy in carrying out his new responsibility.

"The biggest challenge is how to prioritise residents' wants... We are constrained by how much we collect from them, so we must utilise our funds efficiently," he said.

The two new town councils are Jalan Besar and Marsiling-Yew Tee.

Jalan Besar Town Council arose after Moulmein-Kallang GRC was dissolved and Jalan Besar GRC revived.

Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin said his constituency joined Jalan Besar, "our direct neighbour", to enjoy economies of scale.

As for Marsiling-Yew Tee Town Council, it will manage areas in the GRC that used to be under the Chua Chu Kang and Sembawang town councils, starting Dec 1.

The 13 reconstituted town councils are the result of some areas coming under different town councils from Dec 1, because of the change in electoral boundaries.

MPs in charge of three town councils have asked for a name change.

Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East will be renamed Aljunied-Hougang, after the Workers' Party (WP) lost single-seat Punggol East to the People's Action Party. The town council said last night that Mr Pritam Singh will swop roles with Ms Sylvia Lim. Mr Singh becomes chairman and Ms Lim will be vice-chairman alongside Mr Png Eng Huat "to further deepen leadership capacity and for job rotation".

Punggol East will go back to being in Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council. A smooth handover, however, may be hampered by a disputed sum in the accounts handed to Aljunied- Hougang Town Council in 2013 after the WP won the constituency in a by-election. But independent auditors will be brought in, said Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council chairman Zainal Sapari: "If either party disputes the amount, MND may have to step in, but we'll make sure there is minimal disruption of services to residents. "

The MND is encouraging all town councils to ensure a smooth transition, "so that the needs of all residents can continue to be served".

The two other renamed town councils are East Coast-Fengshan to accommodate single-seat Fengshan, and Jurong-Clementi after Jurong GRC absorbed Clementi.

As for Mr Ng, 37, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said Mr Ng's success in running a local wildlife rescue group and "his ability to listen to and engage residents will stand him in good stead" at Nee Soon Town Council.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2015, with the headline 'Changes to all but one of 16 town councils'. Print Edition | Subscribe