FINGAL County Council has confirmed that it has 'no immediate plans' to follow the controversial move by Clare County Council to link payment of the household charge with the issuing of higher education grants but the local authority has not ruled out introducing the measure at a later date.
In response to a letter from Cllr. David McGuinness (FF) calling on the council not to 'punish' students by denying them grants based on their parents' non compliance with the household charge, the county manager, David O'Connor said there was 'no immediate plans' to introduce the controversial measure. Cllr. McGuinness welcomed that statement from the county manager but said that the council's reluctance to completely rule out introducing the measure was 'worrying'. The Fianna Fáil councillors said: ' The proposal by Clare County Council has rightly come in for heavy criticism across the country. 'Students being punished for their parents' inability or unwillingness to pay the household charge was a new low in this country that was supported at the highest levels of government. 'I took it upon myself to have this proposal ruled out by Fingal officials before alternative representations could be made.' In response to the councillor's letter, the county manager said: ' We in Fingal have no immediate plans to follow that example but are keeping the matter under review. 'Were it to be the case that we were to initiate such a measure, I will advise the councillors of my intentions in this regard in advance.' Cllr. McGuinness said: 'I welcome the manager's commitment to avoid this approach in the immediate future but not ruling this proposal out completely will come as a worrying indication for the many thousands of families who rely on speedy processing of their grant applications to fund the academic year.' He concluded: 'I will raise this concern with my colleagues in the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party to pressurize the government into fixing Minister Phil Hogan's disastrous handling of the household charge. student's education should not be held to ransom over Fine Gael and Labour's mess.'