Straits Times, Sept 26, 1989
By Bertha Henson
BY 1991, town councils will take over from
the Housing and Development Board the
management of all public housing estates in
They will see to it that corridors are
swept, rubbish cleared and lifts repaired,
besides managing common areas such as
car-parks, building gardens and publishing
The idea of town councils, which function
very much like a mini-government, is not a
new one. Other countries, such as France and
Britain, have local councils which run
villages, towns and cities. In Singapore,
however, this is a big change since
previously the Government made decisions on
First suggested in 1984, town councils
represent the Government's effort to put more
power into the people's hands and to make
them responsible for the area they live in.
The Government had concluded that the HDB
had grown too large for the board to be able
to respond to the differing needs and
preferences of people living in different
With a town council, however, residents
will have a greater say in how their estates
are run and what facilities they will have.
This is because town councils are managed by
their elected MPs and town councillors --
most of whom, according to the law, must be
residing in the estate.
This does not mean that MPs and town
councillors have to go round and clear
rubbish or sweep corridors. The day-to-day
running is left to professional estate
managers who will get the cleaners and
contractors to do the job.
Money to run a town council comes from
residents' conservancy charges, government
grants, money from investments and loans.
Besides such financial powers, a town
council can also pass by-laws to manage
common areas in the estate. For example, it
can decide to penalise those who damage lifts
or those who park their cars without concern
The town council idea raised a number of
questions when it was first broached. Would
it be too taxing for the MPs? Can town
councils really run the estates better than
the HDB? What if it runs out of money?
To test if the idea of town councils would
work, three pilot projects were started in
Ang Mo Kio housing estate in 1986. It ran for
more than two years and at the end of it, MPs
and grassroots leaders in charge of the
project gave it the thumbs-up.
The Town Council Act was passed in May
last year and the first three Ang Mo Kio town
councils were gazetted in October.
Since then, town councils have moved fast
to create their own identities with logos and
newsletters. Some have also started projects
Copyright © 1998 Singapore
Press Holdings. All Rights Reserved.