WP-run town council acts on S&CC owed

SINGAPORE - The town council run by the Workers' Party (WP) has taken steps to collect some of the service and conservancy charges (S&CC) it is owed, but says it will take legal action only when all else fails.

Mr Png Eng Huat, vice-chairman of the Aljunied-Hougang- Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), told The Straits Times yesterday that legal proceedings are started "as a last resort after some time has elapsed".

"From the first reminder right up to the legal letter sent to the resident, there are ample time and opportunities for the resident to make payment or negotiate a payment plan with the town council," he said.

He added that residents can also approach their MP for help.

AHPETC has come under fire for failing to collect payments for S&CC on time.

In the latest annual town council report released last November, the town council was given the worst banding for its management of S&CC arrears and for corporate governance.

Mr Png said yesterday that since 2012, the town council has been looking into the cases of residents who owe S&CC.

Some of them had approached the People's Action Party (PAP) branch chairmen in Aljunied GRC for help after receiving lawyers' letters of demand from AHPETC in the last few months, according to a report on Tuesday in Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao.

Mr Chua Eng Leong, who is the PAP branch chairman in the Eunos ward, told The Straits Times yesterday that he had been approached by 12 such residents since last September. Many had not paid their S&CC for more than a year, he said.

One woman had stopped paying since July 2011, and owed AHPETC about $2,800. Last month, she received a summons to attend court over the matter.

Mr Chua said: "A lot of them are in financial difficulties and they tell me all of a sudden, without warning, they were sent these letters."

Asked about it, Mr Png said that, for a start, the town council typically sends reminders to residents who do not pay their S&CC.

"The town council is mindful of its responsibility to collect charges owed and has sought to strike a balance and exercise compassion," he added.

Last November, AHPETC chairman Sylvia Lim had said the town council would address the issue of the S&CC arrears after the Auditor-General's Office had completed the audit of the town council's financial statements and made them public.

This article was first published on January 15, 2015.
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