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29 May 2019

Government Funding of Town Councils: The Role of Private Law

Benjamin Joshua Ong

Published on e-First 29 May 2019

Abstract:
Section 42 of the Town Councils Act (Cap 329A, 2000 Rev Ed) provides for the Government to provide grants to Town Councils “subject to such conditions as the Minister may determine”. The imposition of such conditions can be useful in theory. However, there is no clear mechanism by which such conditions may be enforced. This article proposes that this lacuna be filled as follows: such conditions are to take the form of private-law relationships between the Government and Town Councils. After outlining the benefits of this proposal, the article critiques the Court of Appeal’s decision in a 2016 case which held that such private-law relationships cannot exist as a matter of law, and explains why the proposal would be compatible with both the policy behind the Town Council scheme and the terms of the Town Councils Act. The article ends by commenting on how the proposal may be implemented in practice by means of contracts, trusts or bailments.