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Dutch government resigns over childcare subsidies scandal

The Dutch government led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte has resigned over a childcare subsidies scandal.

Mr Rutte, who leads the conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy as part of a four-party ruling coalition, stepped down following a cabinet meeting.

In a statement, Mr Rutte said: “We are of one mind that if the whole system has failed, we all must take responsibility, and that has led to the conclusion that I have just offered the king, the resignation of the entire Cabinet.”

Image:
Mark Rutte, centre left, pictured with King Willem-Alexander, centre, and other government ministers. File pic

He added that he would continue to work to compensate affected parents.

The other parties in the Netherlands’ leadership had called for Mr Rutte to go after an inquiry labelled the mismanagement a decade of “unprecedented injustice”.

The report found last month that around 10,000 families had been made to repay tens of thousands of euros of subsidies after being wrongly accused of fraud.

This led to cases of unemployment, bankruptcy and divorce.

According to the tax office, many of the families were targeted based on their ethnic origin or dual nationalities.

Orlando Kadir, a lawyer for around 600 families in a lawsuit against politicians, said people had been targeted “as a result of ethnic profiling by bureaucrats who picked out their foreign-looking names”.

Previously, €500m (£445m) had been earmarked to compensate around 20,000 families.

Janet Ramesar, a parent who was waiting for the news of Mr Rutte’s resignation, said: “It’s important for me because it is the government acknowledging, ‘we have made a mistake and we are taking responsibility,’ because it’s quite something what happened to us.”

Parliamentary elections are due to be held on 17 March, with the current government expected to stay on until then in a caretaker role.

Mr Rutte is expected to lead his party to the polls, with polling suggesting it will win the most seats and in the driving position to form the next coalition.

Lodewijk Asscher, has already stepped down as the leader of the Dutch Labour Party.

While he is not in the current coalition, he had been involved in a previous government.

Mr Rutte’s resignation to King Willem-Alexander is the first government collapse in the country since 2012.

Then, it was again Mr Rutte at the helm, although that dissolution was due to disagreements over austerity measures.

The Netherlands is currently amid its tightest lockdown of the pandemic, and Mr Rutte has been considering tighter action.

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