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College grants – Household Charge

Posted by Francis O' Toole on September 18, 2012

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn has said it is reasonable to ask those applying for additional taxpayers’ money whether they were compliant with a legally-due tax.

Local authorities face cuts over charge compliance
He said he expects other councils to follow Clare County Council’s decision to send letters to third-level grant applicants asking them to submit proof they have paid the Household Charge.
Mr Quinn said the council made the move on its own initiative and the department was not involved.
Clare County Council said that processing higher education grants is done at a cost to the council and it was its policy to ensure that benefactors of such services pay the Household Charge as required by law.
The council said any delay in processing grant payments is regretted.
It added that early payment of the charge would ensure no unnecessary delay in the payment of the grants.
A council spokesperson was not able to say if non-payment of the Household Charge would actually result in grant applications not being processed or being refused.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Pamela Rochford, spokesperson for the Clare branch of the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes, accused the council of using scare tactics.
Also speaking on the programme, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the council was “out of order” in asking whether third-level grant applicants or their parents had paid the charge before processing grants.
Mr Martin said that while he believed that people should pay the charge, students should not be victimised. He also questioned the legality of the move by Clare County Council.
He said education was central and of value, and we should not allow it to be used and exploited by those with other agendas.
The party’s education spokesman Charlie McConalogue called for an urgent statement from Mr Quinn over his comments.
He said: “This casual response from Minister Quinn is a cause of grave concern.
“It is disgraceful that the Minister responsible for protecting and improving our education system would casually defend a threat to withhold education funding.”
The Union of Students in Ireland criticised the move and said young people must not be penalised for their parents’ decisions.
USI President John Logue said the decision was unprecedented and described it as a “particularly cynical and craven way to manage a Government”.
Sinn Féin’s education spokesman Jonathan O’Brien said the move “is likely to be a breach of the rights of applicants to be independently assessed for a grant”.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland described the decision as grossly unfair.
TUI General Secretary John MacGabhann said any delays in grant payments could have serious repercussions for students.

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