As well as working with our partners on the emergency response, we created four recovery groups last year. These groups identified the actions that we needed to take to support our communities and housing; the local economy; planning, health and environmental protection; and our own organisation. I'm really proud to say that the majority of actions identified have already been delivered.

The list of achievements is considerable. Over the past year, we have issued well over £70 million of grants to businesses, community groups and those residents who are struggling financially. Due to the speed at which we issued our business grants, we also qualified for a further £1.1 million, which is also being distributed.

We've worked tirelessly with rough sleepers and due to the hard work of our outreach team the amount of rough sleepers in the city has reduced from 32 in 2019 to 3 in 2021. We were also awarded a £324k grant to assist with ongoing support for rough sleepers and provided funding to StonePillow to purchase a property for move-on accommodation and the construction of four additional rooms at the lodge. Our 'Make your change count' campaign was launched to discourage residents from giving money directly to rough sleepers and instead to divert this money to local charities who can offer ongoing support. During the pandemic, we have also been moving ahead with the development of our short stay accommodation for households who find themselves homeless. This is needed more than ever and is due to open next year.

Supporting local businesses has been, and continues to be, a key priority for us. As well as issuing millions of pounds in grants and support, we have been supporting our high streets and local businesses in many other ways. Training, retail support grants, support for the self-employed and micro businesses, and working with the Observer series on a campaign to support local, are just a few of the actions we have taken. We've also advised businesses how they can make their premises Covid-secure, and offered reassurance to visitors through our Covid Ambassadors. We've got lots planned for the months and years ahead, including the launch of Invest Chichester; preparing for events to return to the district when restrictions ease; celebrating our cultural offering through a series of events next year; continuing to provide high quality business accommodation; and attracting businesses to relocate here.

Climate change, health, and planning for the future of our area are other priorities we have been focusing on. While some of our officers have been directly responding to the crisis, others have been busy progressing vital work such as the Local Plan Review. Huge amounts of work has been carried out on this, including in relation to employment and horticultural development, to make sure that future planning policies are capable of supporting economic recovery.

Financially, the pandemic has hit councils hard too. We've completed the first round of an efficiency review and are currently on track to achieve £932k of savings in 2021-22. Our target is to save £2 million across the next three years, but things are changing all of the time, and this may well need to be increased. We've also been developing our website and making it even easier for people to access our services online.

What you can be assured of is that we will continue to support you every step of the way.

Best Wishes

Diane Shepherd

Chief Executive at Chichester District Council