A WEBSITE offering cash to help with everyday costs was so swamped with applications it closed within an hour.

The Household Support Fund provides £5.2m for Dudley Council to distribute mostly to people already known to be vulnerable and in need of extra help.

Other people who may also be struggling financially can apply for a share of what was left over through two rounds of payouts,  £500,000 was up for grabs from October to help with winter bills.

Record demand led to distribution being paused until January 17 when applications were reopened for a slice of the remaining £271,607.

Announcing the latest application process, Cllr Steve Clark, Dudley’s cabinet member for finance, said: “I must stress that we expect demand to be high, so we’ll monitor applications and may have to close the scheme quickly.”

His prediction was correct and the website closed within an hour after receiving 1,108 applications and 52 referrals for sums of up to £300.

The method of distributing the cash has not impressed the Labour opposition on the council who believe people most in need are missing out.

Cllr Shaukat Ali, Labour’s finance spokesperson, said: “I am deeply concerned that a significant number of vulnerable people in need of support during the winter months may have potentially missed out again due to the council adopting a first come first served approach and due also to a lack of awareness about the funding, especially those who are not on email.”

Cllr Clark, said: “Although people were advised to apply online, they were also able to call Dudley Council Plus to go through the application process over the phone should they experience difficulties.

“We were awarded £5.2million by the government last year to offer financial support to residents.

“More than £4m has been used to support people that the council is already in contact with and are in need and most vulnerable. 

“This has been via the Cost-of-Living hubs run by Citizen’s Advice, free school meals for children in the school holidays and school hardship funds, and food and fuel vouchers for the elderly, people with disabilities, and others in financial need.

“The remaining funds, which in the end totalled more than £950,000 were made available through the application process. 

“Applications were subject to eligibility criteria to make sure the payments went to those most in priority need.”