The plan to abolish the two municipal councils may lose public support unless the Government can show that its alternative scheme offers both greater efficiency and more accountability to go with savings for the taxpayer. District Board members have already been angered by the decision to offer them only one of the two legislative seats left vacant by scrapping the councils, and to make the other a functional constituency. Now it appears the cost-cutting gains will be considerably less than people were led to expect. To date, the Government has either failed to make headway with a scheme discussed long before it was announced in Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's Policy Address in October, or it prefers to let a taskforce unveil plans which fall short of public expectations. Details should have been revealed to legislators yesterday, but the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Michael Suen Ming-yeung, has chosen to pass the baton to an as-yet-unknown policy secretary who will head the new unit. All that has been established so far is that democracy has suffered another setback, without significant savings to the budget, and with only a minimal cut in manpower. If the new Environmental and Food Bureau proves to be well organised and efficient, it will protect the community from the chaos which accompanied the so-called bird flu and the red tides. But it could come at the cost of yet more centralisation, and that is to be regretted. A counter-proposal by the Democratic Party to merge duties of the two councils, halving staff numbers and cutting the total of councillors from 100 to 60, claims to offer savings in the region of $500 million a year instead of the $28 million under the present proposal. But the Government is clearly determined to do away with the two municipal bodies which have given poor service over the years. One advantage of the new arrangement is that it will subject the bureau to the scrutiny of Legco and the Auditor's Report. In the past, the councils received a fixed percentage of the rates revenue. The new body will have to justify its expenditure. The electorate will have to be satisfied with that.