A single mother with a 16-year-old son was arrested for unpaid service and conservancy charges (S&CC) amounting to S$2,150 due to the Marsiling-Yew Tee Town Council. That’s an accumulation of 18 months of unpaid S&CC bills since April 2018. She was held in police lock-up for close to 10 hours before being released.
On Sunday (19 January), activist Gilbert Goh shared this story on Facebook, saying that he was “shocked” by it.
Mr Goh shared that he has told the single mother that she was fortunate not to have been jailed outright, given that prolonged non-payment of S&CC bills is a jailable offence in Singapore.
Mr Goh explained she still has to pay the default after being discharged from prison.
Describing how things escalated, Mr Goh said it is probable that the single mother may have ignored numerous court orders triggering a warrant of arrest as a result.
He said that 40% of the total default that she owes, S$937, were for other miscellaneous costs such as S$310 for penalty charge and S$627 for legal fees.
Mr Goh explained that the single mother works as a promoter with a monthly salary of about S$1,000. She told him she couldn’t pay the S$159 monthly instalment and every time she lapsed, the Martown council sent in a legal reminder which costs S$200, further aggravating her S&CC default.
Mr Goh described it as “akin to paying a loan shark but this time it’s a legalised one”.
He continued, “With such atrociously high legal charges levied on errant defaulters, the law firm representing the town council must have racked in tens of thousands of dollars each month on legal fees alone.”
“Moreover, besides paying the monthly instalment of $159 for the default owed, she has to cough up another $78.50 for fresh monthly payment for S & C charges. This is on top of the many other bills Singaporeans are currently paying,” he lamented.
Recounting asking her why she didn’t simply rent out one of her rooms to alleviate her financial stress, Mr Goh said the single mother explained that she was “uncomfortable living with strangers under the same household.”
She also doesn’t receive any help from her ex-husband, leaving her to work 12-hour shifts seven days a week to keep up with all her bills, though that’s not always possible.
S&CC monies not channelled back to benefit residents
Moving on to address the Marsiling-Yew Tee town council, Mr Goh noted that its sinking fund has reached close to S$2 billion. He explained, “some estate has pooled resources to derive benefit from economy of scale but none of the savings have being passed to the residents so far.”
Mr Goh said residents are “rather clueless” about how the town council uses the S&CC fees collected which can run up to millions for each estate per month.
He added, “We also realized that in the past, some town councils used the excess sinking funds to dabble in risky financial investments but they have now stopped.”
At the end of his post, Mr Goh noted that any Good Samaritans who would like to contribute a little to help alleviate the woman’s bills could reach out to him or pay directly to her town council account through AXS online to offset the default.