More transparency proposed for councils

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 January, 2008, 12:00am

A series of measures to streamline the operations of the 18 district councils and increase their transparency has been proposed by the government.

They include limiting the number of co-opted members and committees and mandating that councils make audio recordings of their meetings more accessible.

In guidelines set out by the Home Affairs Department this month, the administration lays down two principles of reform: councillor-driven operations and increasing efficiency.

Under the first principle, the number of co-opted council members should not exceed the number of councillors.

Co-opted members are nominated by councillors for council work. They join committees and working groups but do not sit in on general meetings. Many are party colleagues or supporters of the councillors.

Previously, councils set their own number of co-opted members. In some small districts, co-opted members outnumbered councillors.

'We had six committees in Wan Chai in the previous session, each with four to six co-opted members - about 30 of them. But there were only 14 councillors,' councillor Anna Tang King-yung said.

Ms Tang said her council needed the help because of its small size, and had only accepted the new regulation because it had no choice. She suggested that the government should instead consider increasing the number of council seats in small districts.

But Christopher Chung Shu-kun, vice-chairman of Eastern District Council, welcomed the measure. 'It was abnormal to have unelected councillors dominating the elected.'

The guidelines also suggest councils have just four to seven committees, in light of the addition of management committees to deal with new powers to administer facilities.

The government hopes the streamlining can increase efficiency and help councillors handle community services and meetings given their increased workload.

To improve transparency, all councils are asked to upload recordings of general and committee meetings onto the internet. Thirteen districts now do this.