As we go into the second week of the more stringent national measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, I remain so proud of the people in our community. I have been out in my local neighbourhood checking on my neighbours and getting shopping, and I have seen so many others doing the same. These offers of help and acts of kindness I know are a great comfort, and are happening all across our district.
I have also seen how technology is helping us keep in touch, with people learning IT skills they didn't even know they had. I myself am thrilled to be able to stay in touch with my granddaughter, Lilyrose who may not yet be two, but can video-chat like it's the norm.
In continuing to focus on supporting our communities, we are reprioritising our staff and resources at NFDC to the essential services such as refuse collections and homelessness support. This is not easy, as we face our own staffing challenges and the need to adapt to new tasks, and so I thank all our staff who are working tirelessly in support of this common aim.
We have in the past week set up our local response hub to support our most vulnerable residents with food parcels, delivered in partnership with the voluntary sector, community groups and staff volunteers.
We are offering a range of flexible payment plans for council tax for those of you who are facing financial difficulty because of these new challenges, and we have information on a range of benefits and financial assistance we can advise on.
The district has one of the highest numbers of small business and self-employed people in the county and we are working hard to ensure they have access to the support and information they need. Our main focus has been on making sure business know about the help and support available from government. Through the New Forest Business Partnership, we have organised our first online Virtual Support event, focusing on marketing in challenging times, with a plan to do more of these.
If you can do so safely, please help us by sharing the key information we are adding to the web pages with people who are not online. Please check here regularly for updates as our services are likely to change over the coming days and weeks.
The best thing we can all do right now to look out for each other is to stay home and follow government advice. Thank you for all you are doing to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and to help your friends, families, and neighbours.
Cllr Barry Rickman
Leader of New Forest District Council