If changes are introduced, use of funds can be extended to cover more civic issues

The Chennai Corporation on Wednesday initiated steps towards widening the scope of the Councillors’ Ward Development Fund to cope with emerging civic challenges.

The civic body has commenced a study on this issue following representations by residents seeking solutions to many civic challenges that are not covered by the Councillors’ Ward Development Fund. Proposals for spending Rs.30 lakh per year are permitted under the Fund.

Many councillors who have been unable to spend funds for civic projects have requested the Corporation to suggest changes that would permit them to submit proposals for works covered under MLA Constituency Development Scheme (MLACDS).

As of now, councillors cannot initiate works in many areas that fall under the MLACDS.

If the government permits such changes, the Councillors’ Ward Development Fund can be used to procure machinery to tackle problems such as sewerage issues and water supply too.

For instance, currently, funding for jetrodding machines is not permitted under Councillors’ Ward Development Fund. Even proposals by councillors for combining their funds to purchase jetrodding machines have not been permitted despite a number of protests by residents in wards facing sewer problems and water supply challenges.

This has handicapped the functioning of councillors despite the fact that the Ward Development Fund was increased in phases from Rs.10 lakh in 2006-07 to Rs.30 lakh.

In urban areas such as Chennai, out of the Rs.2 crore per year under MLA Constituency Development Scheme, an amount of Rs.1.125 crore has to be earmarked under the ‘tied component’ for priority works.

Under this component comes works such as solar street lights, construction of bridges, renewal of badly worn-out BT roads, laying of cement concrete roads, buildings for government hospitals or schools, bridges, parks, storm water drains, burial grounds, public toilets or jetrodding machines.

MLA’s can also submit proposals under an ‘untied component’ This includes work not falling under categories such as construction of office building and purchase of furniture, repair works, infrastructure for government aided or self financing colleges, places of religious worship and installation of high mast lights.

Many of the development works recommended by 16 elected MLAs and one nominated MLA from Chennai District are yet to solve civic challenges.

One of the reasons is the delay in decision-making by MLAs on recommending works for civic improvement.

The guidelines based on which funds would be released for councillors are likely to be changed to suit the existing civic conditions.

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