Since the coronavirus crisis began, people from across our district have been pulling together and demonstrating a real sense of community, and that’s something we should all be incredibly proud of. Unfortunately, at times such as this, we also see a rise in the exploitation of vulnerable people, and the unease, uncertainty and anxiety that many of us are feeling at this time. This is why we are encouraging people to be on their guard. Thankfully, the majority of the support that is in place across the district is delivered by established community and support groups, but we all need to be cautious, especially with online, email and phone scams. We have included advice and guidance on this topic within our new community guide, which can be found at www.chichester.gov.uk/helpyourneighbour. This also includes important telephone numbers, email address and web addresses for key organisations and support groups across the district. We are hoping that this will provide extra support and reassurance to both residents and community groups at this difficult time.
Over the bank holiday weekend, our staff and senior leadership team were out supporting our local communities, including working at Stonepillow preparing food for the homeless and helping to empty people’s bins. They reported that people in Selsey were out clapping our refuse crews, leaving messages of support and even supplying them with chocolates! This really does mean a lot and our crews have been really touched by the level of support they have received – so thank you.
We have also been busy supporting businesses, including contacting those who are eligible for government assistance to make them aware of the support that is available. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a number of support measures, including grants for businesses in receipt of ‘Small Business Rate Relief’ and ‘Rural Rate Relief’, as well as financial help for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in premises with a rateable value below £51,000. We’re encouraging businesses within these categories to apply for financial support on our website at www.chichester.gov.uk/businessratesmarch2020 We have already started issuing grants, but we want to make sure that all of those businesses that are eligible make sure that they get their application in as soon as possible. In total, we will receive and issue up to £37 million in government grant funding for businesses in the Chichester District. We are also keen to make businesses aware that we have received reports of scams that claim to be linked to the government grant scheme. They may tell you that there is a problem with your account details and direct you to a website that isn’t genuine or they may offer to help you to access funding for a small fee. Please be aware that these grants can only be issued by us and that a fee will never be payable. If you need any help, please contact us directly by emailing email@example.com
Although our priority is to focus on our critical services and to support you through this crisis, we have also been moving forward with some of our other key projects as well. This includes continuing to work closely with our Chichester MP, Gillian Keegan, and West Sussex County Council, to try and secure funding for the funding for the A27. Following a meeting with Highways England, I’m pleased to tell you that the A27 Chichester Bypass major improvement scheme is included in a list of projects to be developed for possible future funding. Highways England has said that £300 million is available for preparatory work into 32 possible schemes nationwide – although only some of these will be included in its next Road Investment Strategy for the 2025-30 period (RIS3). This is great news and a very positive step, but we will be one of many authorities competing for funding and so we will need to make a very good business case for a major A27 scheme. I must stress that nothing is guaranteed, and at the moment, it’s too early to say what any scheme will look like, but we will be writing to Highways England to ask for an open and transparent process to take place for all our residents, workers and businesses. In considering the options, we will also be asking Highways England to set out its reasons clearly and provide evidence for any deliverable and non-deliverable options.
Finally, I would like to thank you for continuing to follow the government’s advice to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives. This is the one way we can all play our part in this crisis. To all of those on the front line – our remarkable NHS colleagues, our council staff, carers, supermarket workers, delivery drivers, chemists and more – we will never be able to thank you enough.