Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Council abandons household charge-student grant link ‘on legal advice’

A COUNTY COUNCIL which had yesterday indicated plans to withhold student grants from households which had not paid the Household Charge has said it has abandoned the plans.
South Tipperary County Council, which yesterday said it would seek proof of payment of the €100 charge before releasing grants to third-level students who qualify for them, is no longer proceeding with the plans.
County secretary John O’Mahony told that the council had made the decision after taking “further legal advice”.

“Our initial legal opinion [...] was that we would have had an entitlement under general local authority legislation to withhold money,” he said.
But when the matter was looked at more closely on a national level… on that basis it was decided not to continue.
The council had given regard “to legal advice that was made available by the Department of Education and the Department of the Environment,” as well as legal analysis carried in the media.

O’Mahony stressed, however, that the decision had been made on an independent basis and that he was not aware of any directives being issued from either of the two government departments.

He added that South Tipperary County Council would “never have been our intention to do anything that could be construed as illegal.”

This morning’s Irish Times reports that eight councils had indicated their plans to seek proof of payment of the divisive €100 charge before grants would be issued.

Councils in Leitrim, Clare, Cavan, South Dublin, Kilkenny, Limerick City, Longford and Roscommon all told the newspaper they were considering the move.

Yesterday environment minister Phil Hogan said the councils were not acting on Department instruction, but that he supported councils who opted to do so.

Those councils were “doing no more and no less” than any council should, Hogan told the Dáil.

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