I know that so many of our communities have been joining together and providing a real life line to those who live alone or are self-isolating. From the bottom of my heart - thank you.

Supporting the most vulnerable has been one of our major focuses. We are working in partnership with West Sussex County Council to support those most at risk through their community hub. You can contact the Community Hub if you, or someone you know, need help, or if you want to volunteer your services in these difficult times. This will be available seven days a week and staff will be on hand to respond to enquiries from 8am-8pm. The best way to contact the hub is online; if you have access go to www.westsussex.gov.uk/covid19communityhub. A dedicated telephone helpline is also available for residents who are unable to go online: 033 022 27980. We are trying to keep the resources available through the hub for those who are most vulnerable, so if you do have support in place already, such as from family or friends, then please continue to use their support.

We have also been pulling together a community guide, which will soon be ready. This aims to support volunteers, community groups and also those people who need to access help. It contains lots of useful telephone numbers and provides important advice. We will be sending this to all parish councils and community groups to share within their communities and it will be available to download from our website at www.chichester.gov.uk/coronavirus  Alongside this, we are also providing downloadable materials to help people make contact with those who may need help.

We're also reaching out to those who may be struggling to pay their bills to let them know that there are a number of ways in which we can help. In addition to the normal options that we offer, such as our council tax reduction scheme, we have also been suggesting that people can pay their council tax in instalments over twelve months or even spread them between June 2020 and March 2021. We are trying to do all we can to assist people through these very challenging times. If you, or someone you know, would like to find out more about this, please email taxation@chichester.gov.uk or if you do not have online access, please call us on 01243 785166. Please consider using our online services wherever possible. This will keep essential lines free for those without access to the internet.

Our Economic Development team has also been supporting hundreds of businesses, making sure that they are accessing all of the help that is available. This week, we are starting to issue government grants to those who are eligible. We've also be highlighting other support that is available.  Our Health Protection team has also been offering help and guidance to those food businesses that want to offer take away and delivery services. It's worth keeping an eye out for delivery and online services offered by local businesses, which have been expanding in recent weeks. This is one way you can continue to support local businesses. 

We are used to welcoming people and sharing the beauty of our district with everyone, but over the past couple of weeks we have been urging people not to visit the Chichester District. We know that this has been a big concern of many of our residents, especially those who live in the south of the district. At the weekend, we closed our coastal car parks and our Civil Enforcement Officers were monitoring the area closely. Our health protection team has also been supporting businesses by making sure that they comply with the business closure regulations where this is applicable. I'm pleased to report that the majority of people seem to be limiting their movements to essential activities. However, a small number of people were still taking part in water sport activities. We are urging anyone thinking about doing any water sports not to do so. People should not be out taking part in activities such as this, especially as our Foreshores team is not currently there to offer you support if you get into trouble. We are concerned that as the weather continues to improve and the fact that we are now in the Easter period, that people will be tempted to visit our beautiful beaches and countryside. We are working closely with the police to monitor the situation and we will continue to urge people to stay home and keep safe. Social distancing is vital and we all need to play our part in supporting our NHS workers battle this virus. By staying at home you will be saving lives and protecting the NHS.

I want to assure you that everyone at Chichester District Council is working really hard to support you through these difficult times. We currently have a number of staff who have been moved into other service areas in order to support our most critical services. We are really proud of the way our staff have responded to this crisis - they've shown flexibility and a desire to help and make a difference to those who need our support the most, and have been willing to take on any task. They are supporting our refuse teams, revenue and benefits teams, community teams, our customer contact centre, rough sleeper outreach workers and supporting the charity Stonepillow, to name just a few areas. Like all other public sector organisations, this has been a massive undertaking, with staff working around the clock to make sure that we have been ready and prepared for what is the most challenging crisis we have ever had to deal with.

You will notice that we are also advertising in this week's Chichester Observer and Midhurst and Petworth Observer on page 17 and on Spirit FM. We are doing this to highlight the support that is available and how you can access it, as well as supporting our local media outlets, which provide a lifeline to many people. Please share our advertisement with friends and family and help us reach as many people as we can. You can also sign up to our new email newsletter by registering at www.chichester.gov.uk/newsalerts and can also find lots of information at our dedicated web pages www.chichester.gov.uk/coronavirus and through our social media pages, which are updated daily.

Thank you once again for your continued support and for following the Government's guidance. Together we will get through this.Best Wishes

Cllr Eileen Lintill

Leader of Chichester District Council