District Councils to get HK$100m project grant each
Updated: 2013-01-17 06:43
By Kahon Chan (HK Edition)
The city's 18 District Councils will each receive a one-off grant of HK$100 million, to carry out "signature projects" in their own areas.
The measure, put forward in Wednesday's Policy Address, was one of several intentions to enhance the effectiveness of the District Councils to address issues at the local level and to capitalize on local opportunities.
Leung Che-cheung, legislator of Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), welcomed the scheme as it is a major change towards autonomy held by District Councils. It would also test the councilors' ability to put a major project together.
The DAB lawmaker was also told by the Home Affairs Department that on top of the HK$100-million grant, each District Council will also receive about HK$10 million to cover supplemental costs.
The new grant will allow each district to initiate one to two "signature projects" costing no less than HK$30 million each, a government source said. As long as the plans address the needs of the district with "lasting impact", the councils may choose to undertake construction work or a service scheme.
The funding will be available before the councils' current term ends by the end of 2015. The projects must also be sustainable financially. No additional funds will be forthcoming.
The councils may establish partnerships with the government, non-profit-making organizations, the business sector or statutory bodies. The government source added that the councils will have to choose their partners through fair and open processes.
Though the cash is earmarked for any plans that the councils may wish to work on, the projects still require approval from legislative panels and the Legislative Council Finance Committee, like any other government funding requests.
The source explained that though availability of the funding will make an easy launch, the administration has to ensure all taxpayers' money is cautiously spent.
District Councils had no authority to initiate projects costing over HK$30 million before the scheme. Since councilors were told about the scheme last December, they have been brainstorming potential projects.
Many councilors of the Southern District, for example, have long pressed the government to add a restaurant deck to the existing seafood wholesale market, a concept that is often called the "Fishermen's Wharf" with the attraction of San Francisco in mind. But Au Lap-sing, head of the council's facilities management committee, admitted that councilors have not thought about the plan in depth. With the soaring construction costs, he was concerned that the grant would not cover the cost.
Other funding boosts include HK$20.8 million for all districts to organize arts and cultural activities. The government will also review the allowance such as rental cost for community offices of district councilors. Provisions for district minor works will also receive a boost of an unknown amount.
(HK Edition 01/17/2013 page1)