Parliament: Town Councils might have to ring fence part of sinking funds for lift replacement

Town councils might have to set aside a stipulated portion of funds for the replacing of old lifts.
Town councils might have to set aside a stipulated portion of funds for the replacing of old lifts. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Even as the authorities have pledged to step up checks on lifts in light of recent high-profile accidents, town councils might be made to set aside a stipulated portion of their sinking fund to be used for replacing old lifts.

This comes as part of the Government's ongoing review to help town councils plan ahead and monitor their financial sufficiency for the long term, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told Parliament on Thursday.

"MND (Ministry of National Development) is currently reviewing ways to help town councils plan ahead and better monitor their long-term financial sufficiency, such as requiring town councils to submit their projections and plans for financial sustainability," said Mr Wong.

"Given that lift replacement is a major sinking fund expenditure, MND is also considering ring-fencing part of the town councils' sinking funds to cater for such expenditures."

Mr Wong was responding to a question from Mr Chong Kee Hiong (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) on whether each town council has sufficient funds to replace lifts.

Mr Wong stressed that the maintenance of lifts in Housing Board estates is the "statutory responsibility" of town councils.

"Town councils are responsible for managing their finances and should take the appropriate measures to ensure that they have sufficient funds to carry out their statutory responsibilities," he said.

Under the Town Councils Act and Rules, each town council is required to set aside a minimum portion of their service and conservancy charges collected and grants-in-aid received to fund its cyclical works, which include the replacement of lifts and lift parts.

This portion is 30 per cent for one- to three-room flats, and 35 per cent for larger flats, Mr Wong said.

Recent incidents here have turned the spotlight on lift safety and maintenance.

Last October, an 85-year-old Jurong resident's hand was severed by the doors of the lift she was in. In January, a lift in Punggol was suspended after an inner door remained open while the lift moved. Then, earlier in March, a lift in Ang Mo Kio shot up 17 floors suddenly, causing the 36-year-old woman who was in it to fall and hit her back.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) subsequently said it would be stepping up its audits on lifts in Singapore, especially those in HDB blocks. It added that its ongoing review of lift regulations would be completed this year and come with legislative changes.

In response to questions from the House, Mr Wong yesterday added that the BCA is looking at ways to "strengthen the capacity" of lift technicians and authorised examiners.

When asked about lifts that have not reached the end of their 28-year replacement cycle but have obsolete parts, Mr Wong said: "HDB will work with the town councils to assist them in looking at appropriate replacement for these lift parts in particular."