Review of District Organisations Consultation
27 July 1998
Mr Michael M Y Suen
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs
Constitutional Affairs Bureau
3rd Floor Main Wing
Central Government Offices
Lower Albert Road
Dear Mr Suen,
REVIEW OF DISTRICT ORGANISATIONS CONSULTATION PAPER
With reference to your letter dated 2nd June 1998 which
invited the HKDF to submit our response to the Government's Review of
District Organisations Consultation Paper, I'm pleased to submit our
The HKDF believes this review is most timely, but is concerned that
the consultation paper itself has failed to address the issues
concerned in sufficient depth. Our view is that the opportunity should
be taken to consider, from first principles, what model of local
government is most appropriate for Hong Kong.
We believe that it is important to maintain and further enhance the
system of consultation that has previously been built up between the
Government and the district organizations. However, in our opinion, it
is now an appropriate time to move forward to seek to develop a
suitable model of real, effective local government with responsibility
for the provision of a range of key services, operated within the
policy framework set out by the SAR Government.
There is also a pressing need to ensure that our system of local
government is properly supported by transparent and efficient
Since the proposals put forward by the HKDF are more far reaching
than the options set out in the consultation paper, we would very much
appreciate the opportunity of meeting with the Constitutional Affairs
Bureau to discuss them in more detail.
Alan Lung Ka-lun Chairman
IMPLEMENTING EFFECTIVE LOCAL GOVERNMENT
THE DEVELOPMENT OF DEMOCRACY FROM THE BOTTOM UP
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
- The review should consider what would be the most appropriate
system of Local Government for the Hong Kong SAR (1.2). Local
Government models in other jurisdictions should be studied for
comparative purposes (1.3). A more effective system of Local
Government than we have now needs to be established (1.4).
- Review objectives are recommended (2): identifying and
implementing a suitable local government system, empowerment,
improved communication and efficiency, improved quality and
compensation for council members. A variation of Option (iii)
proposed by the "Review of District Organizations"
consultation paper is proposed (4.1).
- The local government should be given wider responsibilities;
including broad supervision power in housing, primary and
secondary education, development planning and control, health and
social services within the "Area". The proposed
functions of the Area Councils are suggested (5.1).
- The Municipal Councils and District Boards should be merged
(4.2) and a new body, Area Councils, should be formed (4.3) and
between 5-10 Area Councils should be created (4.3). Membership of
each Area Council should comprise between 25-30 councillors (4.4).
- The SAR Government should assume responsibility for food safety
- The Area Councils will be required to provide their services
within the SAR Government’s policy framework and financial
resources approved by the Legislative Council (6).
- Functional sub-committees need to be established within each
Area Council (7.1).
A radical overhaul of the supporting district organisation
management structures is needed (7.2 & 7.3). Management of the
local government should be improved. Members of the community with
relevant expertise should be co-opted onto the sub-committees and
remunerated for their services (8.1 & 8.2).
- The remuneration of Area Council members should be substantially
increased compared with that for present district board members
- The current terms of the Provisional Municipal Councils and
Provisional District Boards should be extended to allow time for
proper consultation and implementation (10).
IMPLEMENTING EFFECTIVE LOCAL GOVERNMENT
THE DEVELOPMENT OF DEMOCRACY FROM THE BOTTOM UP
- The Hong Kong Democratic Foundation (HKDF) welcomes the
Government’s initiative to undertake a review of the system of
Municipal Councils (MCs) and District Boards (DBs).
- However, the HKDF considers that the review was too
superficial and under- researched, failing to address the issue
in sufficient depth. Such an exercise should result in much more
than a reshuffling of existing responsibilities, rather it
should be the opportunity to consider from first principles what
sort of local government is appropriate for Hong Kong. Our
society has become too monolithic and centralised and it is
therefore important to give more opportunity for diversity in
all dimensions, including local government.
- As part of the review, a detailed study of models of local
government in various overseas jurisdictions should be
undertaken for comparative purposes.
- The HKDF believes that in order to fully realise the concept
of "Hong Kong People Ruling Hong Kong" to improve the
delivery of Government services to the people and to underpin
the development of a truly democratic Hong Kong, it is essential
to establish a much more effective system of local government
than we have at present.
- The HKDF considers that the objectives of such a review of
district organisations should seek to:
- Identify a proper and suitable system of local government
for the SAR
- Maintain and enhance the system of consultation between the
Government and district organisations
- Empower its system of local government with fiscal
responsibility and full accountability for the services it is
- Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of local government
institutions through good management practice
- Encourage high quality candidates to stand for election
- Improve the terms of compensation for elected members
- Deficiencies of the Present System
- Our existing two-tier system of district organisations suffers
from the fundamental flaw of being a hybrid. The Provisional MCs
operate as a very limited organ of local government in their
very narrow areas of responsibility; food safety and
environmental hygiene, arts and culture, sports and recreation.
In these areas they have been conferred with political power in
that they can set and implement policy and are allocated funds
to carry out these responsibilities.
- On the other hand, the Provisional DBs are limited to the role
of purely advisory bodies.
- Both sets of organisations have also seen their democratic
credentials emasculated and a diminution of their elected
membership, through the retrograde step of the re-introduction
of appointed members. While the HKDF acknowledges the value of
the availability of expert opinion to the deliberations of the
MCs and DBs, we believe there are other, more effective ways of
providing this, which we will propose later on in this paper.
- It is also our view that the remuneration of the members of
these organisations and of the DBs, in particular, is too low to
adequately compensate for the work required and this may deter
some talented members of the community in seeking election.
- The HKDF recommends a variation of option (iii) proposed by
the "Review of District Organization" consultation
- We agree that the MCs and DBs be merged into one single
- Our recommendation is that between 5 to 10 new Area Councils
(ACs) be created.
- Membership of each AC will comprise around 25-30 directly
elected Councillors, depending on AC population size.
- District Council Functions
- Although we would like more in-depth study into the
appropriate form of local government organization to be
continued, our recommendation at this point is that serious
consideration be given to empowering ACs with responsibility for
the following functions:
Recreation & Culture
Primary & Secondary Education
Development Planning & Control
- The HKDF agrees with the consultation paper that the
Government should assume responsibility for food safety.
- Scope of Responsibilities
While the concept of local government devolves responsibility
and accountability for providing the selected services to the
relevant area organization, these responsibilities need to be
undertaken within the policy framework set out by the SAR
Government and financial resources approved by the Legislative
- Management Structures
- To enable the ACs to carry out their functions more
effectively there will be a need to establish a system of
- Recent experiences, such as the problems with the Hong Kong
Stadium and the library design process have shown an urgent
requirement for a radical overhaul of the supporting district
organization management structures and the implementation of
performance management and monitoring programmes.
- There has also been evidence from the operation of our MCs
that more objective and critical judgement could be exercised in
the spending of public funds. Appropriate criteria and
management systems should be introduced to improve this area of
- Expert Advice
- We propose that in the place of appointed members, members of
the community with relevant expertise be co-opted onto the
various sub-committees to provide expert advice during the
- We further recommend that co-opted members be appropriately
remunerated for their services.
We recommend that the level of remuneration for the new AC
members be increased substantially compared with that of
Provisional District Board Members, in recognition of their
increased responsibilities and to enable them to devote a greater
amount of time to their duties.
- Role of Other District Level Institutions
The role of other district level institutions, such as the
Mutual Aid Committees, Owners Corporations, Area Committees and
District Management Committees should also be evaluated as part of
a comprehensive review of district organisations.
- Extension of Term of Municipal Councils and District Boards
To better facilitate the smooth implementation of this more
comprehensive system of Local Government, the HKDF recommends the
present terms of the Provisional Municipal Councils and
Provisional District Boards be extended for a further 6 to 12
months beyond the end of 1999.
In addition to fulfilling the Objectives, as set out in
paragraph 2.1, a purpose of this proposed comprehensive system of
Local Government is to create competition among the various ACs in
the provision of effective services. ACs with better quality
services will serve as benchmarks for the provision of services.
This in turn will exert pressure on ACs providing lower standard
services to upgrade, in the face of the threat of the failure of
their councilors to achieve re-election by dissatisfied voters. As
a result the community as a whole will benefit from an ongoing
effort to continually improve the standards of the services
provided by the ACs.
|Policy Paper - page revised 23-09-2002
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