Students in Groningen have been unfairly excluded from energy allowance. This was determined by the court at the end of last week, according to the parties involved, as reported by this newspaper.
Dagblad van het Noorden, 14 August 2023 – Sander Dekker
The judgments of the court have not been made public yet but have been sent to the three students from Groningen who took the municipality to court in May in so-called legal proceedings. They believed they were unfairly denied the allowance simply because they are students.
The court agrees with them. According to the court, similar cases have not been treated equally. Minima in Groningen did receive an allowance for their skyrocketing energy bills, while students – with equally rising costs – were left without money. The court stated that the availability of special assistance in exceptional cases was not sufficient.
The municipality argued in court that the payment of the energy allowance was a rush job. It was almost impossible to assess each student individually. However, the court does not agree. According to the court, the allowance could have been paid per household, or the municipality could have required students to have their own energy contract in their name. Excluding the entire group was unlawful.
What the ruling means for students in Groningen remains to be seen. “It’s difficult to say what the municipality will change in its policy,” says lawyer Jaap Kotteman from the Legal Advice Wanted firm, who has handled many such cases in recent months. “But it’s clear that Groningen has to change something.”
He represented one of the three Groningen students during the lawsuits in May. According to him, there are still about two to three hundred similar cases pending in court. With this verdict, these cases will likely be referred back to the municipality. These files will then have to be reassessed. The municipality of Groningen said on Monday morning that it has not yet received the judgments and cannot comment.
Mitchell Siemensma (24) was the first student in Groningen to go to court at the end of last year after being rejected for energy allowance last summer. In his case, the court ruled that the municipality must pay him 1500 euros in allowance. In addition, it must reimburse his legal costs. The third case of a student from Groningen was rejected because of his living situation. Therefore, the court did not address whether he was rejected because he is a student.
Kotteman suspects that only the students who filed a lawsuit against the municipality before this ruling will receive their allowance. Cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht also handled similar court rulings in this way.
During the lawsuits in May, the municipality’s lawyer did not rule out the possibility of an appeal against an unfavorable ruling. According to responsible alderman Eelco Eikenaar (SP), the municipality simply does not have the budget to help more people financially with their energy costs.
“A higher appeal would surprise me,” says Kotteman. “Other municipalities accepted it. The scheme was created to help people with their energy costs. And winter is approaching. An appeal would send a bad signal to the students in Groningen.”