Singapore Recreation Club members vote against lease renewal for Padang site and proposed levy

Results revealed that 52 per cent of the 1,594 members who voted were against lease renewal. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The majority of respondents in a Singapore Recreation Club (SRC) vote have opted not to renew the lease for the clubhouse site at the Padang, where the club has been a fixture since 1884. While members want the club to remain, there have been disagreements over a proposed levy they must pay.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has offered SRC a 30-year extension for a sum of $18,404,070, which the club has to accept by Nov 19.

The lease for the land in Connaught Drive, where the clubhouse is located, is due to expire on July 11, 2024.

Voting was held from last Thursday to Saturday, with results on Sunday (Oct 3) revealing that 52 per cent of the 1,594 members who voted were against lease renewal.

Some 74 per cent also elected not to pay a levy of $6,700 - for ordinary, women and corporate members - to pay for the renewal.

The levy for members aged 80 and above was $2,680 for a membership term of 10 years, and 67 per cent voted not to pass the proposal.

SRC previously told The Straits Times that the $6,700 amount was derived from an assumption that "30 per cent of 3,000 forecasted members may not opt in". The club has more than 7,200 active members, of which 4,240 are allowed to vote.

SRC president Sarbjit Singh said while he was disappointed with the outcome, he accepted the members' decisions.

"I hear them, and we will have to re-evaluate the situation. Ultimately, the members are the main stakeholders," he added.

Dr Singh said that he plans to write to the SLA to appeal to extend the Nov 19 deadline.

"SLA offered us a good amount for the lease. If the offer lapses, the club's future will be uncertain."

A spokesman for the club said on Sunday that the management committee will meet in a week's time to decide on the next steps.

Some members told ST that they were unhappy with the levy amount as they felt it was too high. They wanted the club to dip into its reserves to partially pay for the lease renewal.

The club has some $13.8 million in its reserves. Dr Singh said he hoped not to use the reserves because about $5.5 million is needed to maintain the club, which sees an annual operating deficit and expenditure of about $1.2 million.

Dr Han Kit Kwong, 62, a dentist in private practice, on Sept 19 started a petition in protest against the levy amount, and has since collected more than 700 signatures.

The petition proposes that the levy be brought down to $2,500, with the club contributing from its reserves. It also proposes to raise funds through new membership drives or taking out bank loans.

Said Dr Han on Sunday: "Most of us are happy with the outcome. We will be pressing ahead to hold another EOGM (extraordinary general meeting) to move forward with our proposal."

He added that members who signed the petition are not against the lease renewal, and would like to accept SLA's offer of $18 million.

Financial services manager Tang Whai Yih, 72, who has been a member of the club for 44 years, said she signed Dr Han's petition.

"The levy amount we are asked to pay is very unfair, especially since women don't have voting rights," she added.

Some 780 women are among the club's non-voting members.

"Seniors would be okay to pay if it was a reasonable sum, but $6,700 is a big amount to cough up at one go," she said, adding that she was disappointed with the way the club communicated with its members.

"The Zoom EOGM on Saturday was a one-way conversation. We did not get to ask questions on the spot, and most of the questions I sent in beforehand were not answered."

But other members are upset with the voting results.

Mr Jason Lim, 64, a trading representative, said he was "astonished" that members would vote against renewing the lease.

"It is tantamount to them saying that they want the club to end its operations in 2024," he added.

He hopes the club and its members can come to another agreement in time to meet SLA's deadline.

Retired businessman David Tan, 71, who voted in favour of the lease renewal and the $6,700 levy, said: "The club has a long history at the Padang and we would have been able to continue for another 30 years. Now its future is uncertain."

SRC previously said it will not be able to accept SLA's offer if its members do not agree with its proposals.

When the current offer lapses, it will need to repeat the process of calling for a new valuation report, and make another application to SLA. It will then need to seek members' approval to pay the levy again.

The club began as the Straits Cricket Club in 1880 and was established as SRC in 1883. The current clubhouse at the Padang was finished in 1997. It has sports and recreation space of 5,631 sq m and commercial space of 2,176 sq m.

The monthly subscription fee for ordinary members is $85 before GST. The membership price for ordinary members - which is market-driven - is currently around $5,000.

It is unclear if the club's uncertain future will affect the membership price.

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