Revamp 'will bring benefits'

Chris Yeung

Political parties will be able to boost their district work in the long run under the new two-tier structure, according to a senior government official.

Defending the decision to scrap the two municipal councils, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Michael Suen Ming-yeung argued the political parties should not overlook the positive effects of the revamp.

He said the consultative and supervisory role of district boards would be strengthened.

The Government would also consider increasing the allowances for members to set up offices and recruit assistants.

'To those political parties who want to strengthen their district work, the changes will facilitate their development,' Mr Suen said.

'I hope that political parties will not just look at the district organisations reform proposals negatively and overlook the positive side of it.' Pro-democracy legislators have accused the Government of backpedalling democracy by abolishing the two municipal councils when their term expires at the end of next year.

Mr Suen cited the development in some Western cities such as Toronto to argue the streamlining of district-level councils was a trend to enhance efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

'It's a commonly held view in our community that the political function of municipal councils has diminished as the number of directly elected seats in the Legislative Council increased,' he said.

Mr Suen said they hoped the relevant legislation for the new structure and the elections for the next district councils would be passed by Legco in mid-February.

He sid a taskforce would be set up soon to oversee the administrative and financial arrangements.