The Government has failed to set out a long-term vision of the development of democracy at district level in its review of municipal councils, according to academics. At a Legislative Council constitutional affairs panel special meeting yesterday, four of the five academics present had reservations over the centralisation plan. Robert Chung Ting-yiu, of the University of Hong Kong, said he had no idea what the Government wanted to do. 'I can't see if the changes will guarantee Hong Kong more democracy. The Government can't say where it is going to,' he said. Mr Chung said there would be no point in restructuring if the Government only wanted to centralise power without reforming the district boards. His university colleague Lo Shiu-hing blamed the Government for shirking its responsibility on handling the bird 'flu. It had not said how the new bureau would co-ordinate with other departments and how the consultative body on food safety would be made up, he said. Dr Lo warned that scrapping the councils would give rise to social instability as people would have less channel to participate in politics. Dr Li Pang-kong, of Lingnan College, said the restructuring should not be introduced for the sake of administrative convenience. He suggested five municipal authorities be set up with more power. Dr Michael Degolyer, of Baptist University, preferred a merger with reforms to the council's structural and functional role. Dr Chan Man-hung, of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, supported the centralisation plan, saying food safety policies should not be put in the hands of politicians. 'Political parties seek power and compromise. They often cannot play a positive role in environmental protection,' he said.