The impact of coronavirus will have left millions of families across the country worried about how they can keep paying the bills.

If your income has taken a hit because of the social distancing measures imposed to slow the spread of Covid-19, you might be eligible for some help with your council tax.

After the government announced a £500m hardship fund to support vulnerable households, many local councils are offering to reduce bills or delay payments for those who are most in need,

This is the advice offered to residents in the region’s seven council areas about what help is available to them.

Newcastle

The council said: “We will continue to collect council tax, but if you are struggling to pay then please get in touch using our online enquiry forms on this link or email us [email protected]

“If your income has changed due to Coronavirus you may be entitled to council tax reduction; more details can be found on this link.

“If you are struggling to pay and your income has changed due to Coronavirus please contact us by using our online enquiry forms on this link or email us [email protected]

“Instalments can be paid over 12 months and we can amend instalment plans for people struggling to pay.

“For those who are self-isolating and cannot go to the Post Office or use an automated payment line we will accept payments over the phone – please call 0191 278 7878.”

Northumberland

Residents in Northumberland can make an application for council tax support here.

A council spokesperson said: “We understand many people across Northumberland will be experiencing additional financial concerns because of coronavirus and we are working hard to provide a range of support.

“More information on what’s currently available can be found under the “Your questions answered” section of our website - northumberland.gov.uk

Northumberland County Council headquarters, Newcastle Civic Centre and North Tyneside Council offices
Northumberland County Council headquarters, Newcastle Civic Centre and North Tyneside Council offices

“The Government has also allocated the council a share of the national £0.5bn hardship fund. Initially this will be used to increase the local council tax support for working age recipients, in line with national guidance.

“Any remaining funds will be used for further support for our most vulnerable, details of which are now being worked on, and we'll communicate this to our residents as soon as possible.”

Gateshead

A council spokesman said: “The government has announced a program of additional help for those receiving Council Tax Support and we are expecting more information about this to be made available shortly.

"In the meantime, we are advising anyone who is concerned about making a payment to contact the Council Tax team at Gateshead Civic Centre by emailing [email protected] or phoning 0191 433 3600.

“Gateshead Council already has a scheme which provides help towards paying Council Tax for those on a low income. We have full details of that scheme on our Council Tax Support page on our website.”

County Durham

Anyone who is struggling to pay their council tax because they are affected by coronavirus can gain more information about the support on offer at durham.gov.uk/counciltax or by contacting Durham County Council on 03000 264 000 or [email protected]

Paul Darby, head of finance and transactional services at Durham County Council, said: “In County Durham, people already benefit from a Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme that doesn’t cap the level of support our residents can receive. We are the only authority in the North East to do so and one of only a handful nationally.

“Many of our households that need help and support do not have any council tax liability, as they benefit from our existing scheme. Our teams are busy assessing the details of the schemes announced this week to see where we can enhance the high level of support already provided.

“We have also postponed debt recovery for anyone falling into arrears with their council tax bills at this time, and are encouraging anyone with concerns about their payments to get in touch. We will be flexible with people who need help and we can provide a range of options, including spreading the cost evenly over 12 months or starting the payments from June instead of April. Many residents and businesses are taking up this offer.”

North Tyneside

“The Government has put in place steps to help those affected by paying 80% of wages in some cases and announced yesterday similar help for the self-employed.

“With this in mind, the council will be able to help people reduce their monthly payments and spread the cost where possible.

“For anyone who is not working or on reduced wages, we would advise them to submit a claim for Council Tax Support by visiting www.northtyneside.gov.uk and for Universal Credit by visiting www.gov.uk

“The council’s basic guide to council tax support is also available here.”

South Tyneside

All working age residents in receipt of Council Tax support will receive a £150 reduction in their Council Tax bill, with no payment due until 1st October 2020.

South Tyneside Council has also established a new hardship fund to support residents in financial crisis. This can be reached by calling 0191 424 7444.

For council house tenants, measures will be put in place to ease the financial burden of rent payment.

Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said: "These are unprecedented times and we recognise that this crisis is adding an additional financial strain to some of the most vulnerable in our communities.

"We are committed to doing everything in our power to help those people most in need and we are working around the clock to support them."

Sunderland

The council said: “Many people across Sunderland will be experiencing additional hardship because of COVID-19.

“The council’s existing Local Council Tax Support scheme takes into account your personal circumstances, including your income, your age and the level of savings you have.

“The allocation of Government funding is based on the latest available information of the number of working age claimants for this support in Sunderland, around 19,400 people.

“The access to extra funding from Government is welcome because the council is receiving further enquiries as the COVID curbs begin to impact upon many people’s incomes.

“The existing scheme is being updated to take account of the new Government scheme, which will see claimants receive up to an additional £150 benefit, which will see more than 15,000 people pay no Council Tax between April 2020 and March 2021.

The council is working to ensure that the scheme maximises the benefit to our residents, supporting as many people as possible.”

Claims can be made here. Further information is available at sunderland.gov.uk/housing-benefit.