The Cabinet has no intention to discuss options to compensate students living away from home for the increased cost of energy with municipalities. This was stated during the General Financial Debate last Thursday.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives discussed the national budget for next year with finance minister Sigrid Kaag. The topic of compensation for the increased cost of energy was discussed at length. Farid Azarkan (DENK) pointed out that municipalities are ‘out of their depth’ with students and the cost of energy. He requested that the Cabinet discuss the matter with the municipalities once more. Previously, the Cabinet repeatedly stated that students should be barred from receiving energy supplements because their situations vary greatly.
The Cabinet refers students to their municipality’s special social security provisions if they can no longer cover their energy bills. Moreover, students benefit from the general provisions that are put in place to cushion the high energy costs, such as a reduced energy tax and the price cap. The question, however, is whether this policy will remain intact if legally challenged. A judge ruled in favour of a student from Nijmegen who subsequently received an energy supplement of 1300 euros. Municipalities now fear a wave of appeals from students who were previously denied this compensation. Some municipalities have already amended their policies.
DENK, therefore, submitted a motion to implore the Cabinet to discuss support for students living away from home. Minister Kaag has no intention of doing so and pointed out that the health care supplement has been increased and that the basic grant, which is to come into effect in September 2023, will also be increased for one year.
The House of Representatives must still vote, but it is unlikely that the motion will be accepted. Last month, during the General Debate on the Budget Memorandum, the four coalition parties (VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie) blocked an energy supplement for students, against the wishes of all of the opposition parties. Municipalities would prefer a national provision, for example, through DUO. However, a spokesperson states that DUO does not know which students live at home and which don’t. The loan system does not discriminate between students living at home or away; there is no basic grant anyway.
Pieter Omtzigt also called for a solution for buildings with communal heating, where residents share their heating system with dozens of other households. They appear to barely benefit from the price cap. This may also affect student housing complexes. Government parties D66, CDA and ChristenUnie, supported Omtzigt’s motion.
Kaas stated that the Cabinet’s intentions are the same as those detailed in the motion. Therefore, she requested a vote on the motion be delayed until the Cabinet has had the opportunity to react.
HOP, Bas Belleman