The Socialist Party (SP) faction in the Groningen city council says it will organize a public protest against the exclusion of students from the municipality’s allowance scheme which designed to help with the cost of living, Omroep OOG reports. The party announced its plans during a debate Wednesday. Several opposition factions, including the students’ party Student & Stad, Stadspartij 100% voor Groningen, left-wing green party GroenLinks, and liberal democratic party D66 supported the intiative. Many expressed hope that hundreds of city students will join the protest action.
Last spring, poorest Dutch households received a €800 energy allowance as a compensation for soaring energy prices, but students were largely excluded from the scheme. Although municipalities across the country are responsible for the payment of the energy allowances, the funding comes from the central government. Local authorities have to follow the national guidelines which state that students under 27 are not eligible for the government assistance. Some municipalities, however, excluded students of all age groups citing budget problems.
In August, a Nijmegen student, Mark Mulder, successfully sued the city for excluding students from the one-off council bonus scheme. “This ruling constitutes an important precedent for the student community in the country,” said Joram van Velzen, president of the National Student Union, at the time. “It is now legally established that students should not be excluded from the allowance. They are, therefore, entitled to compensation not only in Nijmegen, but also in other cities.”
The Nijmegen court verdict gave new impetus to Groningen politicians’ calls for the allowance to be extended to students. Several municipal factions have long said that the cost-of-living crisis is hitting that group particularly hard. “We believe that the municipality of Groningen cannot ignore a ruling of the Nijmegen court,” Steven Bosch, chairman of the Stadspartij 100% voor Groningen, said.
The €800 energy benefit was meant for people whose income did not exceed 120% of the social minimum. Some cities, such as Zwolle and Delft, did pay out the allowance to students, but Nijmegen and Groningen did not.