Town Councils were formed in 1989 to empower local elected representatives and residents to run their own estates. The formation of Town Councils is based on the Town Council Act, which was passed by Parliament on 29 June 1988. Today, there are 15 Town Councils managing the HDB housing estates in Singapore. The elected representatives will form part of the council/ committee to look into the management of the respective estates. Town Councils are integral to the lives of Singaporeans living in HDB estates. We can pay for our Services and Conservancy charges at any town council office in our constituency. Applications to use the facilities under the care of the town council for purposes ranging from recreation to personal affairs can also be done at a town council office.
Just as residents expects the town council to demonstrate professionalism in their work, compassion and a healthy dose of flexibility in the execution and decision-making process, residents should also be more accommodating and exercise more patience and understanding with the town council and their staff. Managing an estate and looking into the varied aspects of estate maintenance are not easy to begin with. Sometimes, if we put ourselves in the shoes of the estate cleaner, the property officer, the call-centre staff or the administrative personnel, we may be able to better appreciate the intricacies of their work. Just as we want others to spare a thought for our daily struggles and frustrations at our respective workplaces, we as residents should exercise more prudence and understanding in our dealings with the town council and their staff. Town councils are not run by a political party, but by a team of professionals and abled managers. They are employed under a contract and are not beholden to the political interests of any party. Notwithstanding these bureaucratic arrangements, it must be noted that just as we are fathers and mothers to our children, and sons and daughters to our parents with all the encompassing responsibilities and financial obligations to them, town council staff should also be treated with the respect and dignity due to them and residents should view them not as parts of a bureaucratic machinery but as individuals trying their utmost, doing their part, and performing their responsibilities in view of the many constraints that the town council face, constrains that more often than not, residents do not see and may not understand, resulting in judgments being passed with less than adequate understanding of the circumstances.
Municipal issues such as cleanliness and immediate matters in the constituency that needs to be addressed such as a lift breakdown cannot be resolved by comparing this cleaner with that cleaner, this property officer with the last property officer, this member of parliament with the previous member of parliament and this party with that party. It is not helpful at all, and in fact creates unnecessary divisions and set unwarranted expectations. To me, if there is an issue, let’s us look at how we can be constructive and go about resolving them in the shortest possible time, without creating too much inconvenience to the affected resident and other stakeholders in the community.
I am not saying that the town council staff can afford to do less and residents should expect less from the town council but residents can and should be more forgiving, understanding and cooperative. More importantly, we as residents should not go away with the idea that we can order the town council to do whatever we want in accordance to what we think is right. Just as we are free to provide any feedback and make requests of the town council, similarly the town council has the right to say no to us with the proper explanation or justification. As residents, we should listen more to the grounds on which the town council makes its decision and if we are not satisfied with the outcome, do not give up, but work closely with the town council continually on the relevant issue. Let us also bear in mind that for matters pertaining to estate management, issues between different residents of different state of minds at different points in their lives with different religious and social beliefs are bound to crop up and can be very tricky. These issues have to be managed in a professional and sensitive manner, according each resident the fairness and service that he/ she duly should receive.
More importantly, we as residents have a stake in your own estate too. We can make a difference to our own estate by being more considerate – do not litter, use facilities with care to keep them in good condition, be responsible to other stakeholders etc. These simple efforts on our part can and will make a difference to our living environment. Our Town Council needs our cooperation and support to improve the community in which we live in and we all have a stake in. This is our Town Council!
The next time you come across an estate cleaner or town council staff, do not forget to offer them a word of gratitude or even go as far as offering them a packet of drink. I am certain this will mean a lot to them as they continue with their routine to service your community. This is Our Town Council!
Thank you to all the staff and officers of the 15 town councils in Singapore. Thank you for making a tangible difference in the lives of Singaporeans. It has not been easy for you guys, but thanks for being there and bearing with our incessant demands and feedback.