The municipal councils will lose their check on the executive's expanding power under yesterday's proposals, according to council leaders. Chairman of the Provisional Urban Council Dr Ronald Leung Ding-bong was joined by Provisional Regional Council counterpart Lau Wong-fat in opposing the plan to remove their food safety and environmental hygiene portfolio. Dr Leung said centralising powers within one government department would lead to a lack of council monitoring. 'It [goes] against the promise of maintaining the system in Hong Kong intact for 50 years,' he said. Giving control of food and hygiene powers to the Government was among a number of proposals released yesterday on restructuring the councils and district organisations. Echoing Dr Leung, vice-chairman of the Provisional Urban Council Ip Kwok-chung said the proposals were aimed at slighting the councils' monitoring role. Mr Ip, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), also objected to allowing the councils' spending to be scrutinised by the Legislative Council. He said the councils' powers over food safety and environmental hygiene should be strengthened in order to ensure higher efficiency. 'The problem with the current system is it lacks a clear definition of powers and responsibilities,' he said. 'The Urban Services Department does not always listen to us [Urbco].' 'The bird-flu crisis would have been handled better if there were clearer responsibilities for the Urban Council.' Mr Ip doubted whether the Legislative Council could spare effort to monitor food safety and local environmental issues. 'This is a lie,' he said of the government suggestion that stepping up monitoring would be a good idea. 'There are so many panels in the legislature already. 'How many members can they spare for such topics?' Mr Ip also queried the legislature's ability to vet spending for the municipal councils in detail. 'All this is just being proposed to reduce the supervision of government departments. 'They are asking us to surrender our power to the executive so that it would be under no supervision from the councils,' Mr Ip said. The Urban Council's representative in the legislature, Ambrose Cheung Wing-sum, said food safety and environmental hygiene should be co-ordinated by the councils. On the options to restructure the district organisations, Mr Ip and Mr Cheung both supported merging the Urban Council with the Regional Council. But Mr Cheung was adamant the municipal councils should not be merged with the district boards. 'They have very different duties which do not overlap. 'There is already criticism of the existence of two municipal councils. Why create a number of balanced structures? There would be even more overlaps, Mr Cheung said. THE MAIN POINTS RECOMMENDATIONS Municipal councils' powers over food safety and environmental hygiene to be assumed by the Government. The Legislative Council to scrutinise councils' financing for arts, culture, sports and recreation. OPTIONS 1. To merge the councils; 2. To dissolve the councils and transfer their functions to bureaus and departments; 3. To merge the councils and district boards to form a small number of regional bodies; 4. To retain the existing structure with improved co-ordination; Whether appointed and ex-officio seats in district organisations should be scrapped. Whether the criterion of 17,000 people per single-seat district board constituency should be changed.