Milestones & controversies


  • Mr Lim Boon Heng, then an MP for Kebun Baru, moots the idea of team MPs and a local authority to manage Housing Board estates.


  • Pilot project is launched for three town councils in Ang Mo Kio. The town councils take over responsibilities from HDB to manage, landscape and maintain common property in the estate.


  • The Town Councils Act is passed. Town councils are to take over the management of HDB estates in three phases over 21/2 years.


  • Town councils are given the mandate to seek residents' views, and decide on upgrading works for each precinct.
  • Five newly formed town councils start to engage banks to manage their funds.


  • Amendments to the Town Councils Act give town councils powers to impose fees and penalties for late payment of service and conservancy charges.


  • More amendments are made to the Act. One requires that two-thirds of councillors must be residents, up from half previously.


  • Town councils are required to contribute more money collected from residents to sinking funds.


  • All 19 PAP town councils decide to pool resources and take over the provision of essential services, such as 24-hour lift rescues, from HDB. And with HDB no longer providing these services, opposition town councils now have to provide them.
  • The Town Councils Act is amended to require that 100 per cent of accumulated surpluses have to be set aside in the sinking fund if a new MP from another party is elected, and 80 per cent if the new MP is from the same party.


  • The Act is amended to give town councils even more flexibility to use the funds they collect.


  • The Ministry of National Development (MND) imposes a cap of 35 per cent on the proportion of sinking funds that can be invested in riskier financial products.


  • Parliament hears that eight PAP town councils had a total of $16 million in toxic products linked to the failed Lehman Brothers investment bank.


  • MND rolls out the Town Council Management Report, to evaluate town councils on four areas: cleanliness of estates; maintenance; lift performance; and dealing with arrears in service and conservancy charges.


  • Opposition town councils Hougang and Potong Pasir score the worst in MND's first report card, sparking accusations of bias.


  • Following the PAP's loss of Aljunied GRC to the Workers' Party (WP), HDB says the town council handover will follow procedures in the Town Councils Act. New MPs will take on all existing agreements - including tenancies for offices.


  • Changes made to the Town Council Management Report include two new indicators - corporate governance and financial adequacy.
  • The WP-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council cites the termination of a contract by PAP-owned IT firm Action Information Management (AIM) as a factor for its lapses in the latest report card.


  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong calls for a full review on how the AIM contract was awarded "in the interest of transparency and maintaining trust in the system". In April, MND finds that PAP town councils did not lose or misuse public funds in the sale, and that the deal was in line with regulations.
  • In May, Senior Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan announces a strategic review of town councils, after a heated debate between PAP and WP MPs on the running of town councils and the handover in Aljunied GRC.


  • Start of WP-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council's long-running disagreement with the Government; it submits financial accounts six months late.


  • Following a spate of lift breakdowns, the Government announces a modernisation programme.
  • Ang Mo Kio Town Council general manager and secretary Victor Wong is removed from duties after he is probed by graft investigators.


  • Town councils have to set aside more of their income for a lift replacement fund, on top of their existing contributions to sinking funds.
  • Two new grants totalling $63 million a year are announced to help with the lift costs.
  • Proposed changes to the Town Councils Act are set out in Parliament.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 12, 2017, with the headline 'Milestones & controversies'. Subscribe