A counter-proposal on reforming the municipal councils was announced by the Democratic Party yesterday in its fight against centralisation. The party says as much as $500 million a year would be saved if a suggestion to cut Urban and Regional Services Department staff by half was endorsed. The proposal came on the eve of a detailed centralisation plan to be tabled to the Executive Council today. The plan is based on a consultancy report by former Urban Services Department director Albert Lam Chi-chiu. Democratic Party legislator Fred Li Wah-ming denied it was too late to put forward a counter proposal when Tung Chee-hwa had announced a move to scrap the municipal councils in his Policy Address with related legislation being tabled this month. Party colleague Lee Wing-tat said the Democrats' proposal was better than Mr Lam's which would possibly not call for reform on the establishment of civil servants and therefore fail to deal with the redundancy problem. 'We can save a lot more money and we are more cost-effective,' said Mr Lee. 'We are talking about $400 to $500 million when the Government can only save taxpayers $20 million if all councillors are axed.' The Democrats suggest cutting the number of municipal councillors from 100 to 60 after the councils are merged. This would save taxpayers $25 million a year in allowances for councillors, they say. The number of directorate-grade officials from the two departments would be cut to eight from 25, representing a saving of $40 million. The 270,000-strong departmental staff would be streamlined by natural wastage and contracting out services. It was expected $450 million a year could be saved for every 10 per cent cut in the number of staff. The target is to halve departmental staff in five to 10 years. More than $33 million would be saved if the two secretariats for the councils were merged, the Democrats say.