As a council we are working very closely with our High Street businesses, local venues and businesses to help them to rebuild from the coronavirus pandemic in a whole variety of ways. Since the pandemic started we have encouraged you to support local and this is something we will be focusing on in the run up to Christmas, when we will be urging you to shop local, visit local and support local.

What many people don't realise is that when you support local businesses you are also pumping money back into the economy, which aids our local recovery - benefitting all of us. You are also helping to protect jobs, as well as creating a better place to live and work; and a healthy local economy. Personally, I also find the experience of buying locally from a friendly face also offers a dose of normality that I have missed.

We are very proud to be working with a number of key partners and businesses on the recovery process through our High Street Recovery and Transformation Group. The group is combining its expertise, knowledge and ideas to help plan for the future and respond to the many challenges that this pandemic has thrown our way. We have been producing signage; providing information and support; as well as identifying and delivering key actions to help our high streets. This week, we have also relaunched our pop-up shop initiative. Using shops owned by the council, the initiative offers affordable temporary premises for smaller enterprises. This gives local entrepreneurs the opportunity to trial business concepts and trade in a high street location without the commitment or cost of a longer-term lease. Applications for this are now open for the Christmas trading period. Potential occupants have until 19 October to apply, with a view to being set up and trading from the spaces by 1 November. Each unit is available for a maximum of 12 weeks and costs £50 per week, plus VAT, and includes utility bills. As our high streets try to recover following the lockdown period, this is a really useful scheme for people who have been inspired to start up their own businesses and want to try out a high street location.

We are also pleased to announce that we have extended the application period for our COVID-19 business recovery grants. A total of £250,000 has been earmarked to support local businesses. £100,000 of this has been set aside for small business grants of up to £1,000 towards the cost of keeping staff or customers safe during the crisis and the other £150,000 will provide larger grants of up to £5,000 which can be used towards measures that businesses are putting in place to help recover from the lockdown period. The new deadline for applications is Friday 23 October. However, if the scheme is significantly over subscribed, then we may have to close the application process earlier. You can apply here: COVID-19 recovery grants.

Our Economic Development Team has also continued to support businesses of all sizes throughout this very challenging time. They have been making sure that businesses access the support that is available, whether it is from the Government, our council, or other organisations. This includes making sure that rural businesses are aware of West Sussex County Council's Rural Gigabit Broadband voucher scheme, through to encouraging businesses to access a business support programme run by the University of Chichester called The Business Hothouse, as well as providing personalised business support. If you want to find out more or get in touch with the team, you can visit our Business and economy web pages.

We have also welcomed two part-time temporary COVID-19 Information Recovery Officers this week. These posts are funded through special Government funding and their role will focus on supporting local businesses and making sure that they are COVID-Secure. This will further enhance the support that our Health Protection and Licensing teams have been providing to help businesses and venues understand and adapt to Government requirements.

We are also busy developing a Christmas campaign to support our local businesses. As I have already mentioned, you can make a big difference, just by buying your Christmas shopping locally. We're in the process of talking to our partners about this campaign, which will again provide personalised graphics for the city and each of our towns. We look forward to sharing these with you shortly.

Best Wishes

 

Cllr Eileen Lintill

Leader of Chichester District Council