THE Covid-19 pandemic has made digital inclusion ever more important, with digital technology keeping people connected while shielding, isolating or staying indoors.

In a crisis where digital access and skills are even more essential to get support, food, medicines and benefits, go to work and remain in contact with family and friends, it is essential that organisations and sectors work together to reduce the digital divide.

This is why we took a report to the council’s recovery committee last week that outlined plans to support Digital Brighton and Hove in continuing their vital digital inclusion work with vulnerable people in the city during Covid-19 and in our recovery.

What I have seen in various public meetings is that virtual meeting software such as Zoom has meant more people get involved in neighbourhood and community meetings they would in ordinary times.

Being able to attend a meeting from the comfort of your own home has meant a bringing together of different groups and hearing from new voices which I think is really welcome.

There are countless other benefits of digital inclusion work including tackling social isolation and loneliness, improved wellbeing, access to online education and training and environmental gains as remote working cuts down on commuting. Or is anyone out there missing their daily commute?

As we look ahead to our city’s recovery phase and shaping the new normal, we have some big questions to ask ourselves. Do we want to return to the daily commute? Or do we want more home-working to form part of the new normal? More time with family? More time cycling and walking along the beach? Less traffic and congestion on our roads an cleaner air due to lower carbon emissions?

More support from Government and employers for flexible work arrangements and more remote-working could make this possible but I’d love to hear your views on this so please do get in touch.

During the public health crisis, we have seen demand for emergency food support multiply, with the children’s centre food bank having a 200 per cent increase in demand since March. We have provided an additional £124,500 of funding for emergency food provision for a further 12 weeks to help keep the city fed. I want to pay tribute to the tireless work of the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership and all the staff and volunteers at food hubs and food banks across the city who are supporting vulnerable residents.

As more Government restrictions are lifted, we’re introducing a number of changes to the city’s public spaces and transport network to help shops reopen safely and flourish in a Covid-19-secure environment. This includes the widening of footways, new cycle lanes, banners and signage. The measures will help our residents and visitors to move safely around the city and encourage them to maintain physical distancing.

We are creating more space for people to visit shops, particularly in narrower parts of the city like the old town and The Lanes.

A further range of measures to support the city’s continued recovery from Covid-19 and encourage active travel across the city were agreed by the environment, transport and sustainability committee last week. This will see some further temporary schemes introduced to increase walking and cycling provision. Since the start of the pandemic, the way people have travelled around the city has changed. More people have chosen to walk and cycle for short journeys and, partly due to an increase in home working, we have seen fewer vehicles on our roads.

We are responding to Government guidance asking us to move quickly to make the city safe and Covid-secure as the lockdown restrictions are eased and the economy reopens. But we also want to ensure that residents have the chance to have their say on the temporary changes we are making. We’re now inviting residents to comment on these changes through a survey on the council’s website. We’re also keen to hear whether these changes have altered residents’ travel habits and behaviour. Anyone responding will be able to comment on each change individually. I urge people to have their say and I look forward to seeing the results.

We need to consider what our city looks like and how we can ensure we have a safer, more sustainable and stronger society locally. That’s why we are teaming up with The Argus to showcase ideas and themes around carbon neutrality and active travel, building community wealth and challenging disadvantage as well as tackling rough sleeping.