DORSET residents struggling with household bills amid the coronavirus outbreak may be eligible for help with council tax thanks to a £2.6 million payout from the government.

Central Government has set aside a pot of money to help people in the county who are struggling to pay council tax. Unitary and county councils in the UK are to receive a share of the £500 million government “hardship fund” for reducing bills for working age people.

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick said the £2.6 million would provide “necessary financial support” for people and families.

The fund was first announced earlier this month by chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of his budget.

Details of its allocations have now been published alongside the criteria that the money can be used to reduce this year’s council tax bills for working age people receiving council tax support.

It can also be used to “provide further discretionary support” to vulnerable people through welfare schemes.

“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,” Mr Jenrick said.

“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.”

Just over £2.6 million has been allocated to Dorset Council. Bournemouth, Christchurch Poole Council is to receive £3.1 million.

Cllr Tony Ferrari, portfolio holder for Finance, Commercial and Assets at Dorset Council, said: “The Government recently announced a package of funding worth nearly £500m, known as the hardship fund. Dorset Council’s allocation is £2.6m and there is an expectation that this will mainly be used to help people in receipt of working age council tax support, as additional relief.

"Those who will benefit initially don’t need to do anything, we will issue revised bills for them as soon as we can - sorry but we don’t know exactly when that will be at this stage. The criteria for hardship is defined by central government.

“Our revenues and benefits team is working with partners to understand who will benefit and how much they will receive, then we will consider how to make relief available to others in hardship with what is left of our allocation.”

But the government guidance says reductions should be applied “as soon as possible” following the start of the new financial year next week.

The money comes on top of £1.6 billion in funding from the government for councils to respond to pressures associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

This includes a boost to budgets for social care and to support homeless people during the outbreak.