Councillors heard from Diane Shepherd, Chief Executive at Chichester District Council, who explained how the council's critical services had worked tirelessly to ensure that their teams were prepared so that they could provide much needed support to the district's communities and businesses. She explained that adjustments had been made to redeploy staff to critical services to support the new level of demand on these areas, and that steps had been taken to ensure that all office based staff could work productively from home.

Diane went on to explain that the council was the highest performing local authority in the country for issuing much needed business rate grants. This work was praised by MP Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, at the Downing Street press briefing on Wednesday 6 May.

Eileen Lintill, Leader of Chichester District Council, thanked staff for the incredible work that had been carried out: "I speak on behalf of all of our councillors, as well as our local communities, when I say how much we appreciate the way in which all staff have responded to this crisis. Everyone I speak is grateful for the services that are being provided, including our waste and recycling service; support for those who are vulnerable in our communities; business support; benefits advice, and; housing support."

Diane Shepherd, Chief Executive, then explained the impact that COVID-19 was having on the council's finances:  "Only a small proportion of our budget is made up of council tax. The council relies heavily on fees and charges to fund its services and these sources of income have been significantly impacted by lockdown. Many of the council's income streams are unlikely to recover quickly, and some may never recover to pre Covid-19 levels.

"It is too early to predict the full impact at this stage, but we could see the council's income reduce by up to £8 million this year, with further on-going significant reductions in future years.

"To date, we have received two tranches of emergency Covid-19 Government funding — £40,000 and £1.21 million — which is being spent directly on the coronavirus response. While we welcome this funding, the amount we have been given will not be sufficient to cover the losses that the council will incur during this emergency. It is not yet known whether we will receive any further funding, but we will need more if we are to recover our losses in income and increases in expenditure. We plan to lobby government for additional financial support."

Diane Shepherd also expressed her gratitude and praised the response of the community and the council's partners: "Since the coronavirus crisis began, people from across our district have been pulling together and demonstrating a real sense of community spirit and solidarity.

"We've been overwhelmed by this incredible response and I would like to thank the hundreds of people who have come forward to offer support to those who really need it — from community groups and residents' associations, to local organisations and neighbours. Our parish, city and town councils, and all of our partners, are playing a huge role and we are grateful for everyone's support."

Chichester District Council has provided key support and advice on its Coronavirus web page and is encouraging residents and businesses to sign up to its weekly email newsletter.

The updates provide the very latest guidance and support available. The council is also updating its social media channels on a daily basis with the latest news.

Date of release: 15 May 2020

Reference: 3875