Eight town councils to raise service and conservancy charges from April

Half a million residents in estates managed by eight town councils will have to pay higher service and conservancy charges (S&CC) from April 1, 2014. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM
Half a million residents in estates managed by eight town councils will have to pay higher service and conservancy charges (S&CC) from April 1, 2014. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

Half a million residents in estates managed by eight town councils will have to pay higher service and conservancy charges (S&CC) from April 1.

This is the first increase in 10 years for seven of the town councils - Ang Mo Kio, Marine Parade, Moulmein-Kallang, Nee Soon, Pasir Ris-Punggol, Potong Pasir and Sembawang. The exception is Jurong Town Council, which last raised its charges in 2010.

The overall increase is generally between 50 cents and $13 a month, but the hike will be split up, with the first increase in April and another one year later.

The town councils cited a higher electricity bill and increases in maintenance and operation costs for the hike.

The remaining seven People's Action Party-run town councils last raised their fees in 2012, citing similar reasons. The Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council has yet to raise its rates, although its chairman Sylvia Lim said in January that it may have to do so, though not as a first resort.

The eight town councils raising municipal fees said they were breaking the hike into two parts to lessen the impact of the change.

From April, fees for homes will go up by 50 cents to $8.50, depending on flat type. For commercial units, they go up by 10 cents to 21 cents per sq m, and for cooked food stalls, by $9.90 to $15.83.

The second increase comes from April 1 next year. Homeowners will pay up to $6.50 more; those in commercial properties seven cents to 11 cents more per sq m; and those with cooked food stalls $9.50 to $12 more.

Sembawang Town Council, which announced the increase on Thursday for all eight town councils, explained how rising costs and inflation had made the hike unavoidable.

It said the town councils have resisted increases for 10 years even when the inflation rate hit a high of 6.6 per cent in 2008. However, it has become increasingly difficult to continue operations at current rates, with several town councils running into operating deficits.

The rising cost of electricity took the lion's share of the increase, where utilities account for 35 per cent of operating costs. Electricity tariffs had shot up by 66 per cent between 2004 and January this year, it said.

In particular, the total bill to maintain and run lifts has gone up by $7.2 million a year for the eight town councils, with the addition of 1,800 new lifts and 3,800 upgraded lifts that stop on every floor. This cost is set to go up as more new lifts are completed in the next couple of years.

Higher maintenance and operation costs is another factor, it said, without giving figures. It projects further cost increases with more covered walkways, car porches, hard courts, children's playgrounds and fitness corners.

But the chairman of Sembawang Town Council, Mr Hawazi Daipi, said the town councils will continue to be prudent in manging spending and will explore new cost-saving measures, such as energy-efficient lighting and bulk procurements.

Mr Hawazi, who is also Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower, also welcomed the Finance Minister's recent announcement of one-off S&CC rebates of one to three months depending on flat type.

He added that the town councils will work with MPs and community organisations to help residents who face difficulties paying their S&CC charges.

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