Last week, it was very touching to see people come out of their homes across the country to clap for our carers. Coming together to support one another in times such as this is what makes our country great. We are particularly lucky in our district that we have such strong communities and networks that are helping to support family, friends and neighbours through this crisis. I want to say a huge thanks to everyone who is playing a role in this.
As a council, we are working in partnership with West Sussex County Council, which has developed a Community Hub to support the most vulnerable residents in our communities. 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 team will be contacting the most vulnerable to tell them how to get help. 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 also want to assure you that we are also doing everything we can to help rough sleepers during the current crisis. We are especially conscious that rough sleepers face particular health risks and so we have offered all known rough sleepers accommodation. The majority have taken up the council’s offer and are now in accommodation. However, there are a small number of long term rough sleepers who continue to refuse all help. In these cases we provide advice and guidance around the need for self-isolation and signpost to the support that is available. We will continue to support rough sleepers once they are in accommodation by ensuring that they have a phone, food supplies and are in regular contact with a key worker. Support will also be available through Stonepillow day centres in Chichester and Bognor, which are providing food and access to other services. It is worth noting that in order to meet social distancing guidance; the centres are limited to a certain number of people at any one time. We are supporting this work by providing staff to assist Stonepillow at the Chichester Hub. I also want to thank Sainsburys who have donated food to Stonepillow, Four Streets and Heart, all of whom are continuing to provide fantastic support to those who need it the most at this difficult time. Thank you to all of you.
We are also working tirelessly to support those who are most affected by this crisis. This includes assisting those who are at risk of being made homeless, those who are unable to pay their rent, those who are concerned about being able to pay their council tax and of course supporting our local businesses. Our Economic Development Team has spoken to over 200 businesses offering support and guidance. We’ve also been sending details out about the business rate relief and grant schemes, as well as directing people to all of the other Government business support that is available. Our Revenue and Benefits team has also sent communications out to all of those who are eligible for business rate relief.
The government has also announced a Hardship Fund to support those residents who are financially struggling. Residents who are eligible for the support will have their award automatically credited to their Council Tax bill. Residents do not need to contact us to receive this payment because we have all of the relevant details. The benefits team will be processing these payments as quickly as possible and currently estimates that this will be done during April.
What you can be assured of is that we are doing everything we can to support those who need our help during this very difficult time.
We are doing all we can to continue to collect your waste and recycling as usual, but there may be times where this may be affected. If this is the case, please place your bin out on your next fortnightly collection day. At the moment, our priority is to collect household rubbish and household recycling. Please also keep a close look at our website www.chichester.gov.uk/coronavirus or follow our social media pages on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates on all of our services.
I also want to let you know that Cllr Susan Taylor, Deputy Leader of Chichester District Council, and I have written to the Secretary of State and have lobbied our MP, to ask for a delay to the Local Plan. It is important that our focus is supporting our local communities right now and we hope that they will take this into consideration. I will update you when we have more information.
I’d like to thank everyone for their patience and support through these unprecedented times. I can assure you that our teams are working tirelessly to support our local communities. To keep up to date with the latest updates from the council, please visit www.chichester.gov.uk/coronavirus
Thank you again for playing your part in this crisis, by staying at home and following the Government’s guidance. Together we will get through this.
Cllr Eileen Lintill
Leader of Chichester District Council