SINGAPORE — A recent report by the Straits Times highlighted comments from Lim Biow Chuan, coordinating chairman for People’s Action Party (PAP) town councils (TCs), suggesting that residents living in Housing Board Board (HDB) estates can anticipate a rise in Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) in the near future.
S&CC, which covers expenses such as estate cleaning, landscaping, refuse collection, pest control, and maintenance of mechanical and electrical fixtures like lifts and lights, last saw a rise between $1 and $17 per month, phased over two years, in 2017.
Mr Lim noted that TCs are grappling with increased cost pressures due to rising energy prices, maintenance costs, and manpower costs.
Energy prices have surged by 23% between 2018 and 2023, while lift maintenance costs have risen because of higher labour and material costs. The implementation of the Progressive Wage Model to uplift low-wage workers has further contributed to increased operational costs for TCs.
Despite these challenges, Mr Lim emphasized that PAP TCs have been prudent in managing expenditure, seeking productivity improvements and cost savings.
“This increase in costs cannot be avoided if we want to support the lower-wage workers,” said Mr Lim.
Both PAP MP for Bukit Batok SMC Murali Pillai and Workers’ Party MP for Aljunied GRC, Gerald Giam Yean Song have raised concerns about the increase of grants to help TCs cope with rising costs.
Mr Giam had earlier filed a Parliament Question in January, inquiring about plans to increase grants for TCs to handle higher costs, including those for electricity and other TC contracts.
In response, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee explained that TCs are responsible for their financial sustainability and that the Government offers grants like the S&CC Operating Grant, Lift Maintenance Grant, GST Subvention Grant, and Lift Replacement Fund Matching Grant. These grants amount to roughly $239 million per year.
Mr Desmond Lee added that the Government will continue to monitor the larger macroeconomic environment, cost drivers affecting TCs, their income sources, and overall financial positions, and assess if additional funding support is required.
Later in April, Mr Murali submitted a parliamentary question, which may have been strategically posed considering Mr Lim’s recent statement to ST.
He highlighted that maintenance costs for mature HDB estates tend to increase more rapidly than those for newer estates and that TCs overseeing a significant number of mature flats often experience operational deficits before taking government grants into account.
Mr Desmond Lee said that the Government is ready to offer additional support to TCs due to their ongoing exceptional cost pressures.
To help TCs maintain long-term financial sustainability while adjusting S&CC rates, the Government will provide time-limited, special funding support to lessen the impact on residents. More information will be shared with TCs when available.