This has been a very difficult time for businesses across the borough and we worked hard to get emergency funding to them as quickly as possible. It is also a challenging time for residents who are worried about the future, writes council leader Cllr Ken Rhatigan.

We are taking an active role in planning for the borough’s economic recovery coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuring Basingstoke and Deane remains a great place to live and work for years to come.

With Basingstoke Together Business Improvement District, The Malls, Festival Place and towns and villages across the borough, we’ve worked to reopen Basingstoke town centre and other shopping areas and ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience while supporting local businesses.

And there are opportunities we need to ensure we are ready for, such as having high quality office space ready for companies looking to move out of London and closer to their workforce as we all change the way we work.

We are looking ahead to how the council and its partners will support the local economy and welcome companies to invest here and grow with us. This includes supporting businesses, developing a strong entrepreneurial network, helping our residents to get skilled jobs, ensuring residents and businesses have access to the latest technology and improving infrastructure to encourage more people to use sustainable transport.

Next month will also see another important step as children return to school – for most this is the first time since March.

As well as providing an opportunity to see their friends again, the reopening of our schools will see them continue on their journey of building the knowledge and skills they need for their working lives.

It is crucial for the future of our borough to build a new generation of skilled workers who are at the forefront of cutting technology.

But training doesn’t have to stop when you leave school. We are committed to working with our partners and training providers to ensure residents of all ages have opportunities to develop skills, whether that be through apprenticeships, via distanced learning or through accessing the high quality further education institutions we have in the borough, to ensure we have a strong and diverse workforce.