£500m council tax relief scheme provided for households hit by coronavirus

Vulnerable people and households most impacted by the strict coronavirus sanctions will be eligible for a £500 million council tax relief scheme, the Communities Secretary has confirmed.

The UK has been put on lockdown after the Prime Minister announced on Monday that all but essential high street shops must close in a bid to stem the spread of Covid-19, while socialising and trips out of the house have been widely curtailed.

Pubs, cafes and restaurants were ordered to close their shutters on Friday as part of a crackdown designed to prevent socialising and save lives during the pandemic.

As part of a wider package of fiscal support measures designed to help those most affected, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced the details of a £500 million hardship fund that will be made available to local authorities in England.

It will enable councils to reduce the 2020/21 council tax bills of working-age people who receive local council tax support.

Councils will also be able to use the hardship funding to provide further discretionary support to vulnerable people by paying out via local welfare schemes.

The money was first declared as part of the £30 billion package announced by the Chancellor at the Budget to help the economy and workers during the outbreak.

Mr Jenrick said: “Providing the necessary financial support to people and families is critical at this difficult time when many people will be concerned about changes to their income.

“That’s why we’re giving local councils an additional £500 million, to ensure help is available for the most vulnerable people in our society who are struggling to pay their council tax bills.

“The Government is on your side and will do whatever takes to help.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has set out the guidance for councils on how they can quickly provide support to those households which require support, a spokesman confirmed.

The level of financial assistance offered to council taxpayers will be determined by each individual council.

The funding boost follows a £1.6 billion grant to local authorities to help them respond to other Covid-19 pressures across all the services they deliver, including stepping up support for the adult social care workforce and for services helping the most vulnerable, including homeless people.

Councillor Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) resources board, said the money would be used to “better target” those who were vulnerable amid the current crisis.

“We are pleased that councils will now be able to provide much-needed support to many households on the lowest incomes by quickly reducing or removing the need for them to pay council tax.

“Councils are leading local efforts to support communities as they try and cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

“By accepting our call for local flexibility over some of this hardship funding, councils can better target some of it towards people who may be especially, or newly, vulnerable as a result of the coronavirus, using existing local welfare schemes.”

Mr Watts also said the LGA urged ministers to pay out on its business support scheme “sooner rather than later” so councils could “facilitate speedy transfer of money to businesses”.

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