FINGAL County Council says it has no plans “at the moment” to look for proof of household charge payment before approving college grant applications.
The council moved to clarify its position after Clare County Council threatened to withhold the grant from students whose parents had not paid the household charge.
Clare County Council had controversially sought proof from college grant applicants of household charge payments from their parents.
The unprecedented move sparked a wave of protest and concern that other councils would follow suit.
Fingal County Council confirmed it is not currently enforcing such a condition on college grant applications.�
In response to queries from Northside People, a spokesperson for the council said it has no plans “at the moment” to link payment of Higher Education Grants or any other applications for funding made to Fingal County Council to the payment of the household charge.
Fingal County Manager David O’Connor, in response to concerns from local representatives, said that while there were no immediate plans to adopt the practice, the council is “keeping the matter under review”.
Local representatives were assured that if the council was to initiate such a practice they would be notified of this intention in advance.
Meanwhile, Dublin City Council has confirmed that it is “not seeking this information from applicants in the current year”.
Local councillor David McGuinness (FF) was among those who condemned the linking of the household charge with college grant applications.
“Students being punished for their parents’ inability or unwillingness to pay the household charge was a new low in this country that was supported at the highest levels of Government,” he stated.
“I welcome the Fingal County Manager’s commitment to avoid this approach in the immediate future.�
“But not ruling this proposal out completely will come as a worrying indication for the many thousands of families who rely on speedy processing of their grant applications to fund the academic year.”
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) also severely criticised the controversial practice adopted by certain councils.
John Logue, president of USI, said he was awaiting legal opinion on the matter.
“Never have I heard of a grant being refused until proof of payment is offered for a completely unrelated tax owed by another person,” he stated.
“Students are being punished for the decisions of their parents and their education is being put at risk.
“This is a particularly cynical and craven way to manage a Government.
CLARE County Council’s decision to ask approximately 800 third-level maintenance grant applicants if their parents had paid the €100 Household Charge provoked a storm of local and national protest this week. The Union of Students of Ireland has warned it will initiate legal proceedings against any local authority that withholds a student grant over failure to provide evidence of the Household Charge payment.
Clare County Council, in a statement, said it has not, at any stage, indicated that grant payments would be withheld from applicants that have not paid the household charge. “Applicants who have completed forms and provided the necessary information will have their payments issued as expeditiously as possible. Applicants who do not provide the requested information will be requested to submit complete applications, which may result in delay,” according to the statement.
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed Clare County Council is not entitled by law to reduce or withhold a portion of the third-level grant that is due as a result of the non-payment of the Household Charge.
He confirmed no money has been withheld by the council in respect of higher-education grants and noted it is entitled to secure as much information about the numbers who have paid the household charge as is required in law.
The council reiterated on Wednesday it was never its intention to delay or withhold the payment of third-level grants to second, third and fourth-year students, regardless of whether their parents had paid the Household Charge and merely initiated this measure as part of its “public awareness campaign” about the public services that are funded by the collection of money from the charge.
Use whatever means necessary to get the money says Hogan as he stands four square with councils over student grants
Those who have not paid their household charges should not receive student grants.
They are asking people, and they are putting in place plans to get in the remaining monies that are owed to them. That’s what any businesses would do” Says Hogan.
Earlier Education Minister Ruairí Quinn added his support to the councils.
If this was, a business charges the banks would be, broke, end of story, and the people would not be paying for government and banker’s mistakes.
The legality of what the councils are doing is questionable and may not stand up if questioned before the courts.
USI president John Logue said: “The action taken by Clare County Council must be condemned in the strongest terms. This is an unprecedented move. Never have I heard of a grant being refused until proof of payment is offered for a completely unrelated tax owed by another person.
“Students are being punished for the decisions of their parents and their education is being put at risk.”
Pamela Rochford, a spokesperson for the Clare branch of the Campaign against Household and Water Taxes, accused the council of using scare tactics with the move.