By Leong Sze Hian
Recap: In Part 1, we ended off with “Comment: Fast forward to today – ComCare receives 70,000 applications for financial assistance in 1 year against less than 4,000 in 1999!”
S & C C increases continue despite operating surpluses & $2b funds?
“According to Jurong Town Council’s annual report for 2008/2009, it had a surplus for the year of $1.5 million, and an accumulated surplus of $3.2 million.
This is after transferring $11.7 million to the sinking fund, giving a total reserve of $79.3 million.
For Aljunied Town Council, the surplus for the year was $2.8 million and total town council funds were $59.5 million.
So, why is there a pressing need to increase S & CC so soon?
Even if we have to increase S & CC, those in 1 and 2-room HDB flats should be spared, as their median monthly household income from work declined by a whopping 13.9 per cent in 2009, according to the Department of Statistics’ Household Income Trends 2009 report.
Lower S & C C in opposition wards?
Also, why is it that S & CC in the opposition wards Potong Pasir and Hougang are now lower than Jurong and Aljunied, for all flat types, except for 2-room flats in Hougang which at $28.50 is 50 cents more than Jurong and Aljunied?
Opposition wards much lower govt grants?
According to media reports, Government grants in 2005 per household were $560 for Aljunied, compared to $114 and $111 for Potong Pasir and Hougang respectively.
For 2009, Government grants for Aljunied, Jurong, Potong Pasir and Hougang, were $9.1, $9.1, $0.75 and $0.94 million respectively.
So, even after adjusting for the smaller number of households in Potong Pasir and Hougang, it would appear that Government grants may still be substantially higher per household for Aljunied and Hougang.
If this is the case, why is it that S & CC in Aljunied and Jurong are higher, despite higher Government grants?
So many in arrears?
The fact that the last reported statistic that three to nine per cent of households were in arrears of more than three months on their S & CC, may indicate that many Singaporeans may still be in financial difficulties.
$2b of funds?
Readers will remember that in 2008, the Straits Times reported:
… the $2 billion in the sinking funds its [the PAP’s] 14 town councils manage is in good hands, said Mr Khaw Boon Wan, the party’s first organising secretary.
It would thus seem that in a year which saw the worst financial crisis in decades, Singapore seeing record inflation and our town councils being affected by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the town councils have been able to effectively double its sinking funds.
The question one would ask is: How did this happen? Were returns from investments so good? Or are town councils collecting unnecessary excess of service and conservancy charges?
How did the sinking funds grow from $1 billion to $2 billion within the space of one year in such an adverse economic climate?
Perhaps before PAP town councils are allowed to increase S&C charges, these questions should be answered first.” (“$2 billion in PAP town councils’ sinking funds but need to increase charges?“, Mar 18, 2010)
Town councils start to get scores for “arrears” management?
“Potong Pasir scored Level 5 on four indicators, while Hougang scored two Level 5s and one Level 4. The People’s Action Party wards received a Level 3 or better on all indicators. Tanjong Pagar town council did best, scoring Level 1 for all indicators except one.” (“Opposition-ward town councils fare poorly“, Jun 11, 2010)
Town councils start to write-off arrears to improve scores?
“Only Aljunied-Hougang failed S & CC score?
It states that “Aljunied-Hougang was (also) the only town council to get a red band for its management of residents’ arrears in their Service and Conservancy Charges.
Potong Pasir was the only other town council to miss the green band for arrears, scoring an amber.
When contacted, its MP Sitoh Yih Pin said the arrears situation was something the town council inherited from its previous management, and it’s something that has to be dealt with a soft touch as it involves the lives of residents.”
So, does the above mean that families that live in the opposition wards are in greater financial difficulties than the other constituencies?
According to the report, “The Town Council is banded Red for S&CC arrears management. More than 5% of their households had S&CC arrears overdue for 3 months or more. Also, more than 50% of their monthly S&CC collectible is overdue for 3 months or more.”
More compassion or better score?
Or does it mean that the opposition wards may be more compassionate towards families who are unable to pay?
So many cash-strapped families?
As S & CC are generally only around $50 a month, is it not rather alarming that more than 5% of households cannot pay for more than three months?
Why is there such a high percentage of HDB households that may be in financial difficulty?
Less cash-strapped families in all other wards?
Actually, a more interesting question may be why is it that all the other constituencies seem to have so much less cash-strapped families?
Also, do town councils write-off their S & CC arrears to get a better score?
In this regard, for example, the article “Only a few arrears are written off” (Straits Times, Jun 17, 2010) said “Aljunied’s annual report shows that it wrote off only $40,000 in the last financial year, 0.12 per cent of the $32 million to be collected.”
When I looked at the annual report, the Conservancy and Service Receivables Provision for impairment’s balance at the beginning of the year was $2,237,334.
Less the Provision no longer required of $885,078, the Balance at the end of year is $1,357,093.
Why was the provision for the year only $4,837, which is about 99 per cent less than the previous year’s (2007/2008) $467,922?
What does “Provision no longer required” mean? That the $885,078 have all been paid up or that this was written off?
Considering all of the above, does the good score for S&CC management still stand?
In the final analysis, are town councils more interested in taking care of residents’ concerns and financial difficulties, or are they more concerned about looking good in the report?” (“Town councils’ report: More cash-strapped families in opposition wards?“, Dec 15, 2012)
– Comment: Fast forward to today – If you owe S & CC, the town council may refuse to allow you to renew your season parking. I met a taxi driver who was frantic over this as he said “how to I drive to earn money to feed my family, if I have no car park to park my taxi?”
AIM controversy discovered by “accident” due to AHTC S & CC arrears?
“The WP said AIM terminated its contract with Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), which is why the council got a red grade for service and conservancy charge arrears.” (“AIM: What is it all about? “, Dec 31, 2012)
“The unofficial history of the poor in S’pore? (Part 1)”, Apr 15