Call to bring back district council polls

Call to bring back district council polls

Members of the Bangkok Metropolitan Council (BMC) yesterday called on City Hall to push for the reinstatement of district council elections.

Elections of district councillors have been suspended pending improvements to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) Act to align it with the national strategic plan and national reform plan.

Napapol Jirakul, a member of the BMC representing Bangkok Noi district, said district councillors, known as Sor Khor, are crucial to community development and are the voice of residents in their districts.

He said district councillors are close to their communities and pass on the needs and problems of people to district offices and the BMC. He urged City Hall to raise the issue of bringing back the polls with the Interior Ministry.

Several BMC members including Sutthichai Weerakulsunthorn, who represents Huai Khwang district, spoke in support of Mr Napapol and argued that elections of district councillors would further promote decentralisation.

They also decided to set up a panel to study the role of district councillors while urging Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt to help press the issue.

Mr Chadchart said he had no authority over the matter but would look into it.

The suspension of elections for district councillors came after the now-defunct National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) suggested the roles be scrapped.

The NRSA believed the posts were no longer necessary because the BMA would be monitored by the BMC. Also, the NRSA thought many councillors served as mere canvassers for politicians.

In a recent report forwarded to the cabinet in April, City Hall said the scrapping of the district council polls does not go against decentralisation.

Other local administrative bodies also have one council whose job is to keep the executive in check, and the number of BMC members may be increased to enhance its performance.

Also under the draft law, a "district community council" would be formed in 50 districts as a replacement and they would comprise 20 members from various professions and community representatives.

Meanwhile, the BMA is expected today to pass its first reading of City Hall's budget for the 2023 fiscal year.

The BMA is proposing expenditure of 79.8 billion baht while it expects to earn 80 billion baht.

Of total spending, 17.5 billion baht is for fixed salaries, 17.7 billion for operations, 10.3 billion for investments, 5.2 billion for subsidy programmes, 13.7 billion for other expenses and 14.3 billion for central funds.

A committee will examine the budget plan, which will take 45 days, before it is tabled for second and final readings. Once passed, it will be signed by the governor and published in the Royal Gazette.

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