As you can imagine, things are very busy at the moment. Not only are we dealing with issues relating to the pandemic and delivering our services and projects, but we are also busy preparing for the West Sussex County Council and Police and Crime Commissioner elections on 6 May. Two by-elections will also be taking place on the same day to elect a new councillor for the Chichester City Council West Ward and another for Southbourne Parish Council.

This week, we have been issuing poll cards to registered voters. When your poll card arrives, please remember to check your polling station as it may have changed. If you haven't already, you can register to vote for these elections at Gov.uk - register to vote until midnight on19 April.

We are working incredibly hard to make sure that all of our polling stations are Covid-secure for people who wish to vote in person. However, you may prefer to apply to vote by post. If you want to do this, you can find a link to download a postal vote application form on our website at Find out how to vote, or you can call 01243 521010. You will need to apply before 5pm on 20 April 2021. You can also apply to vote by proxy and you can find details on this, along with more information about the elections, on our website at: Current elections .

As I'm sure that you are aware, two households or six people can now meet outdoors, including in private gardens. It's lovely that this has been introduced in time for Easter, when many of us enjoy spending time with our friends and family. The good news is that the weather is looking good for the Easter weekend. We would urge you to make sure that you continue to follow the Government's advice on washing hands regularly; wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces; and making sure that you observe social distancing. It's easy to let our guard down, especially when we are with people we know or for those of us who have received the vaccination, but it's vital that we all continue to follow these important guidelines.

Everyone in the district has worked really hard to drive down infection rates and so it is vital we keep it this way. Not only do we need to keep ourselves and others safe, but we also need to do this to protect our local businesses and to make sure that we can return to some sort of normality as soon as we possibly can.

On Monday, we will find out if the Government is ready for us to move to step two of the roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions. If this stage gets the green light, all non-essential retail, personal care premises and public buildings will reopen from 12 April. Indoor leisure facilities, such as gyms will also reopen; as will most outdoor attractions and settings. Self-contained accommodation, such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households will also be able to reopen. Hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors. However, wider social contact rules will still apply in all of these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households.

On 12 April, we will also be launching a new grants scheme for small enterprises across the district. Managed by our Economic Development Team, the Enabling Grant Scheme will give small businesses in the district the opportunity to access funding that will help them to grow and develop. There are three types of grant - one is for capital projects; another is for website and social media projects; and the third is for start-up businesses. If you are interested in finding out more about this and you want to read the guidance notes in advance, please visit: Enabling Grant Scheme. This scheme is separate to the range of coronavirus business support on offer, and we would urge any businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus crisis, or are looking for financial support to aid their recovery from the pandemic, to visit: Coronavirus support for businesses to see if they are eligible for any of the Government grants available.

What you can be assured of is that we will continue to keep you well informed of the support and information that is available. Please remember that we have a dedicated coronavirus area on our website where you can access lots of information, and this can be found at: Coronavirus (COVID-19). Please also don't forget to sign up for our weekly email newsletter.

In the meantime, have a wonderful Easter weekend.

Best wishes

Diane Shepherd

Chief Executive at Chichester District Council