Sham Shui Po and Yuen Long will be the first two districts where district officers will be empowered to break a logjam that is delaying works in the community, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying says in his policy address on Wednesday.
District councillors from both districts said they hoped the scheme would resolve long-standing problems that had been hindering improvements to environment and hygiene in their areas.
“The pilot scheme [will] provide district management committees chaired by district officers with the decision-making power to tackle the management and environmental hygiene problems of some public areas,” Leung said.
That might help the government to “take forward the concept of addressing district issues at the local level and capitalising on local opportunities”, he said.
Yuen Long district council chairman Leung Che-cheung said district officers would meet councillors and district branches of government departments on issues such as buildings and environmental hygiene regularly.
However, government departments would decide on how they wanted to solve the problem, leaving district officers with little say, he said.
“For example, Yuen Long has bicycles idling everywhere, but [officials] can say, ‘We don’t have the resources, so we can visit the place only once every six months’,” he said.
“With the scheme, the district officers have the power to co-ordinate and say how frequent the operations should be undertaken.”
He noted that the policy address also promised to provide additional manpower and resources to implement the scheme.
District councillors will advise on work priorities.
At a November meeting with administration officials, district council chairmen issued an almost unanimous call for such powers as they complained about government bureaucracy.
Sham Shui Po councillor Tsung Po-shan believed that if the scheme was a success, it should be extended to the remaining 16 districts a year later.
“I am just worried that with the new arrangement, the departmental [branches] would have their way of getting around the system,” Tsung suggested.