Municipalities fear new lawsuits over student energy allowance

Municipalities are disappointed that a national policy for students’ rising energy costs is off the table. Delft had also hoped it could leave the energy allowance to DUO.

The cabinet and coalition parties believe students do not need an energy surcharge. (Photo: Justyna Botor)

The municipalities are afraid that students will claim the municipal energy allowance through the courts. On the advice of the Cabinet, the vast majority of them exclude students from the 1.300 euro allowance for low-income residents. That policy is under pressure because a student in Nijmegen was able to enforce his energy surcharge through the courts.

From the beginning, the Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) pushed for a nationwide solution for students through student financer DUO. “We are disappointed that this proved impossible”, a spokesman said as the coalition sticks to its strategy.

Delft is one of the few municipalities that does pay students an energy allowance, although many do not qualify for it due to the strict conditions. Nevertheless, Delft also signed a letter to the cabinet to come up with national policy and appoint DUO for implementation.

Special assistance
Students with serious financial problems can apply for individual special assistance, and for this the cabinet has given municipalities an extra 35 million euros, but for the VNG it is questionable whether this is enough. “The organisation of this scheme costs a lot of capacity and it is uncertain how many students will appeal.” She wants a guarantee that the cabinet will supplement the amount if it turns out to be too low.

The temporary increase in the new basic grant for students living away from home is also of little consequence, the VNG believes, as the increase will not come until September 2023. “We are therefore concerned about possible lawsuits. These eat up capacity and budget that municipalities would rather use for other things that help residents.”

At the General Political Consultations last week, the coalition supported the cabinet policy, despite opposition. The cabinet reasons that students are already going to notice all kinds of other purchasing power measures, which means they will not have to receive a 1,300-euro energy allowance. The House of Representatives will revisit the issue during the budget debates.

HOP, Hein Cuppen

HOP Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau

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