Chichester Observer

Busy preparing for the local elections

- Diane Shepherd Chief executive Chichester District Council

This week, we are busy preparing for the West Sussex County Council and Sussex Police and Crime Commission­er elections, taking place today (May 6) between 7am and 10pm. On the same day, by-elections will be taking place to elect a new councillor for Southbourn­e Parish Council and another for the Chichester City Council West Ward. Neighbourh­ood plan referendum­s will also be taking place in Boxgrove, Stedham with Iping and Selsey.

I want to assure you we have been working hard to make sure all of our polling stations are Covid-secure. Polling stations will be cleaned regularly throughout the day and there will be a limit to the number of people in the polling station to maintain social distancing, so voters may need to queue. Voters can bring their own pen or pencil. However, pencils will be provided and sanitised between uses. We just ask that you follow the guidance given to you on arrival and wear a face covering (unless medically exempt) to keep you and others safe.

Please check your polling station listed on your polling card carefully as this may have changed. Don’t worry if you forget your polling card on the day – you can still vote at the correct polling station by giving your name and address. If, on election day, you are experienci­ng any coronaviru­s symptoms or you have been told to selfisolat­e, please don’t attend a polling station. Instead, please contact our elections team on 01243 521010. For more informatio­n, visit www.chichester.gov.uk/elections.

On Monday (May 10), we will find out if the government is ready to move towards Step 3 of its roadmap from May 17. If it gives the green light, the government will look to continue easing limits on seeing friends and family wherever possible. This means most legal restrictio­ns on meeting people outdoors will be lifted – although gatherings of more than 30 people will remain illegal. Indoors, the Rule of Six or two households will apply. I know many of you will be very pleased about this, especially as we head towards the summer months.

As part of Step 3, most businesses in all but the highest risk sectors will be able to open. Indoor hospitalit­y will also reopen, but customers will still have to order, eat and drink while seated. If you do visit a hospitalit­y venue, every guest has to either scan into the venue using the NHS app or provide their details. This is an important part of the government’s Test and Trace strategy. Indoor entertainm­ent venues such as cinemas and children’s play areas will also open; the rest of the accommodat­ion sector, including hotel, hostels and B&BS; and indoor adult group sports classes.

As you will be aware from our previous district dispatches, we have been working hard to support businesses to reopen safely and to provide them with support. Over the past year, we have accessed funding from the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund to support us with this work. We are currently in the process of putting together an action plan for Phase 2 of this process through the government’s Welcome Back fund. This is to support the safe return to high streets and to help build back better from the pandemic. We will keep you updated with this work.

There is a real feeling of positivity that we are moving back to some sort of normality, but it is really important that we continue to wash or sanitise our hands frequently; wear a face covering in enclosed spaces; and maintain social distancing. Although the vaccinatio­n programme is going brilliantl­y, it’s vital we all continue to take these steps. I would also like to thank again all of the brilliant NHS staff and volunteers who are delivering the vaccinatio­n programme.

The organisati­on and co-ordination of the programme has been outstandin­g.

Thank you for reading my column over the past number of weeks, while we have been in the pre-election period. The leader of Chichester District Council, councillor Eileen Lintill, will be back writing this weekly update for you from next week.

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