Council's U-turn on refusal of grants
SOUTH TIPPERARY County Council yesterday reversed its decision to withhold payments from third-level grant applicants whose households had not paid the household charge.
The move followed “legal advice” from the Department of the Environment with whom the council had been in discussions on Tuesday night. “We do not want to do anything that is not legal, and changed our approach on the basis of that,” county manager John O’Mahony told The Irish Times yesterday.
Mr O’Mahony noted no third-level grant applicant had been sent a letter seeking proof of payment of the charge.
Some 450 third-level grants will be processed by the council this year. About 70 per cent of them have already been processed.
The council had been “trying to highlight the household charge” as it was “depending on it for funding” which had been cut by €500,000, he said.
The rate of payment of the household charge in the region is at about 60 per cent.
Yesterday South Tipperary Independent TD Séamus Healy said a constituent applying for a mobility grant had been asked for household charge payment details.
Mr O’Mahony said the council had in recent months written to housing grant applicants seeking proof of household charge payment. However, the council would “not be refusing or delaying payments” of grants for non-payment of the household charge, he said.
Mr Healy said it was “absolutely obnoxious” and “barbaric” to link payment of the household charge to a grant for a disabled person.
The mobility grant for older or disabled people funds works to enable the installation of facilities such as ramps or stair lifts.
There was further reaction yesterday to the linking by some local authorities of third-level student grants to the household charge.
Clare County Council is prioritising grants for students whose households have paid the charge, but is not withholding payments for those who have not paid.
Other councils have not ruled out linking the grant and household charge payments.
In the Dáil yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed that local authorities had no legal right to withhold grants to third level students based on non-payment of household charges by their respective households.
Councils seeking proof of household charge payment from students would “inflame resistance and opposition”, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said. United Left Alliance (ULA) TD Clare Daly said the move reflected desperation on the part of councils, not because homeowners refused to pay but because the Government had cut their budgets.
She made the remarks as the ULA launched a campaign against the property tax and further cuts ahead of December’s budget.
Socialist TD Joe Higgins said there was going to be a “winter of resistance and strife” as people “actively resist and oppose the austerity agenda”.