WE ALL rely on our local media. From letting us know what’s happening in our communities and neighbourhoods, to holding local politicians to account – local and regional media are important.

We are lucky in Brighton and Hove to have a range of strong local media outlets from print media, newspapers, radio, and television to online news.

Now, more than ever, we feel the benefits of our local press who are helping to keep us informed, entertained and connected while indoors.

I want to thank all our local journalists who even under these difficult circumstances are continuing to report on the issues that matter to local people.

Reliable journalism is crucial as we respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, and we are fortunate to have that here.

In particular, I want to pay tribute to Sarah Booker-Lewis, who is our local democracy reporter for Brighton and Hove. You will have seen her work across various local media outlets and in this public health crisis she is still following the “virtual” council meetings and reporting on council business to keep residents informed and engaged with key decisions.

What is so heartening about this challenging period is the way people across Brighton and Hove are supporting one another. From donating and volunteering at food hubs set up with the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership to setting up mutual aid groups and checking in on neighbours – our city has really come together and our local media organisations have played a big part in that.

They have been signposting people to where they can access support, reporting on the community volunteering efforts and highlighting the real stories of kindness and generosity taking place across Brighton and Hove.

Unfortunately, local newspapers and media organisations are struggling. As their advertisers are impacted by Covid-19, so are they.

I’m asking everyone to please do what you can to support our local media. Pick up a paper, buy a subscription and tune in – because we need our local media and right now they need our help too.

The council already provides critical services to local businesses and we are working hard to ensure they benefit as soon as possible from a package of measures announced by the Government to support small businesses through Covid-19.

We have trained 23 additional staff to join our business rates team so we can operate seven days a week to process applications, because getting grant money out to support local businesses is an utmost priority.

I submit my columns on a Friday so at the time of writing, we have paid out more than £42 million of the £73 million Government funding allocated to almost 2,900 of our eligible city businesses.

Some applications are taking longer to process such as when there are discrepancies in the records we hold and the information provided, but we are writing to those businesses for additional information so we can take these claims forward.

We believe there are more than 1,000 eligible businesses that still haven’t applied for the grant despite us writing to and emailing them.

We are now contacting them again because we are determined every eligible local business should benefit from the support.

I am urging any business that fits the Government’s criteria and hasn’t yet made a claim to please get in touch through the council website.

In our role as a local authority in distributing Government grants, it has become clear that more businesses need access to funds to address their immediate cash flow needs. I have written to the Business Secretary asking him to give us greater local flexibility in allocating any unclaimed funds left over from the small business grants programme, so we can target more support to where it is needed.

We are also lobbying Government for more financial support for the council. Council staff are on the front line in responding to Covid-19, providing valuable social care, securing additional PPE, keeping vital services running with severe staff shortages, as well as supporting the NHS with hospital discharges.

The current Emergency Response Funding from Government (£16.205 million for the our council) will fall well short of the total costs and losses expected to arise from the impact of Covid-19 and council services and recovery could be severely affected without further Government funding.

We as a council, along with our local businesses and residents are grateful for the financial support we have received from Government so far, but we need confirmation that further funds will be forthcoming.