LCQ10: Support for Rural Committees and village representatives
There are views that Rural Committees (RCs) and village representatives (VRs) have been representing the residents of villages to reflect their views on the affairs of villages over the years and are important bridges of communication between the Government and villagers. Moreover, in recent years, the Government has been actively promoting the development of the Northern Metropolis, in which RCs and VRs have been playing a key role, and their workload and expenses have been increasing. Some RCs and VRs have relayed to me that the financial support provided by the Government at present is insufficient to support their work. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective amounts of (i) RC subvention provided to the various RCs and (ii) VR honorarium granted to the various VRs by the Government in each year and each quarter, as well as the rate of each adjustment of such subvention/VR honorarium, in the past 10 years (set out in a table); the criteria for determining the levels of RC subvention/VR honorarium and the details of their adjustment mechanisms;
(2) whether it will review afresh the VR honorarium system and adjust the relevant mechanism, e.g. considering using the remuneration of District Council members as an indicator to encourage villagers to take part in village management work; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) whether it will, by drawing reference from the practices of the Legislative Council and District Councils, devise for VRs a "reimbursement mechanism for expenses on village affairs" to be operated on an accountable basis; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(4) given that RCs are important advisory bodies for co-ordinating New Territories affairs, whether the Government will formulate a regular review mechanism for RC subvention, so as to ensure that RCs have sufficient funds to meet their daily operating expenses; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(5) whether it will set up a "rural affairs fund" to comprehensively enhance rural management and development and, at the same time, support RCs and VRs in managing rural affairs; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The Government has all along attached great importance to rural affairs and, through the provision of honorarium/subvention to rural representatives (RRs) and major New Territories organisations (including Heung Yee Kuk (HYK), rural committees (RCs) and village offices), with a view to recognising and supporting the work of the individuals/bodies concerned over the years. My reply to various parts of the Hon Kenneth Lau's question is as follows:
(1) to (4) A breakdown of the Government's annual expenditures on the honorarium for RRs, including Village Representatives (VRs) and Kaifong Representatives (KFRs), and the subventions to RCs in the past 10 years is tabulated below:
|Year||Honorarium granted to VRs
|Honorarium granted to KFRs
|Subvention granted to RCs
Note 2: Including a one-off subvention of $7,560,000 for anti-epidemic purposes
Honorarium for RRs
The Village Representative Election Ordinance (the Ordinance) was enacted in 2003 to regulate the election of VRs. To give recognition to and support RRs in their performance of functions in accordance with the law, the Government sought the approval of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council (LegCo) on the proposal to grant an honorarium to VRs in January 2010. Under the mechanism approved by the LegCo, the Government grants each VR a quarterly honorarium of $2,000 and adjusts the VR honorarium once every four years after each village ordinary election with reference to the cumulative movement of Consumer Price Index (A) since the last adjustment. The Government started to grant each VR a quarterly honorarium of $2,000 from April 1, 2010 onwards. The Ordinance was amended as the Rural Representative Election Ordinance in 2014 to further extend its coverage to KFR elections. The RR honorarium concerned was also applicable to KFRs starting from April 1, 2015.
The amount of honorariums for VRs and KFRs was last adjusted upward by 10.7 per cent according to the mechanism in 2019. The current honorarium is $2,680 per quarter.
In setting the honorarium for RRs, the Government has taken into account factors such as the number of electors the RRs represent, the size of the constituencies, the scope of work and workload. The adjustment mechanism has worked effectively. As for the remuneration package for LegCo members and District Council members, as the roles of the three parties vary, it is inappropriate to compare their remuneration.
Subvention to RCs
RCs are bodies established under the Societies Ordinance and their operations are governed by their own model rules. The Government has been granting monthly subvention to RCs since the 1960s to cover their daily operating expenses, such as electricity and water charges, costs of stationery and so on. In addition, the rates and Government rents of RCs are paid in full by the Government. Although the subvention to RCs is not subject to an adjustment mechanism approved by the LegCo, adjustments will be made by the Government from time to time with reference to changes in the Composite Consumer Price Index (Composite CPI). Based on the changes of the Composite CPI, the amount of the subventions was last adjusted upward by 24 per cent in 2018. Currently, RC subventions are at three levels which are set according to factors like the size of the RCs, and stand at $15,300, $15,800 and $16,700 per month respectively.
Subvention to HYK
In addition, the Government has been granting monthly subvention to HYK since the 1960s to cover its daily operating expenses, such as electricity and water charges, costs of stationery and so on. The relevant subvention was last adjusted upward by 35 per cent in 2018 with reference to the increase in the Composite CPI and factors such as strengthening of support for the HYK secretariat. The current monthly government subvention granted to HYK is $300,000.
Subvention to village offices
At present, a village office may also apply for subsidies from the District Office of the respective district to fund its recurrent expenditure. The subsidies concerned are accountable and subject to a quarterly ceiling of $1,000. Besides, the rates and Government rents of village offices are paid in full by the Government.
(5) Apart from the RR honorarium and subventions to HYK, RCs and village offices mentioned above, the Government has also supported rural management through various measures. Since 1999, the Home Affairs Department has launched the Rural Public Works Programme to provide, on a yearly basis, funding for implementing works programmes to upgrade the infrastructure and living environment of the rural community. The basic provision for the programme in the financial year 2022-23 is $160 million. Moreover, the Countryside Conservation Office of the Environment and Ecology Bureau has run a Countryside Conservation Funding Scheme, under which $1 billion has been earmarked to support conservation initiatives and revitalisation projects with a view to promoting sustainable development of the remote countryside. On account of the series of enhancement measures for rural management and development currently implemented by the Government, we do not have plans to set up a rural affairs fund for the time being.
Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Issued at HKT 14:10
Issued at HKT 14:10