03 February 2023 – Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council


We always try to help residents and businesses as much as possible with financial support and advice – particularly with rising energy costs and other cost of living pressures (see our Here2Help pages for more information.) However, we want to explore if there is anything else we could be doing. We are therefore setting up a Cost of Living Community Champions network on a similar basis to the Covid Community Champions network which was so useful during the pandemic.

If you, or any of your friends and relatives, would like to help with this, please complete an expression of interest form. If you can’t commit to regular meetings there will also be an e-newsletter with information to share.

Details about the form and the newsletter can be found here.

I’ve spoken before in this message of the excellent Planting Our Future team, and this week I went along with them to Birmingham Dogs Home to assist with the planting of 372 trees at their Solihull Centre. Projects like this help to keep us on target to plant 250,000 trees in the borough in ten years. Planting trees on this scale supports us to meet our carbon net zero target and combat climate change - capturing carbon and helping to prevent flooding. It also provides new homes for wildlife and, in this case, enrichment in the form of shade and places to sniff for all the dogs at the home. You can read more about the planting here.

At the start of the week, we shared our new draft Economic Strategy for the borough, Solihull Economic Strategy 2023-32. This has been developed in conjunction with key partners and stakeholders and looks at how continued and improved economic growth within Solihull can be delivered over the next decade. I’m encouraging stakeholders, businesses, and residents across Solihull to take a look and share their views on the emerging piece of work.

Solihull drives the West Midlands’ economy, and our role is only set to increase over the next decade with the arrival of the HS2 Interchange station and further investment planned around UK Central. Our economy already supports more than 151,000 jobs and generates output worth over £9.32bn following sustained growth over the last decade. However, we know our borough also faces challenges. Whilst we have succeeded in creating jobs, some of our people struggle to access them – and this mismatch is something we must address. It’s also essential we uphold our commitments to tackling climate change and safeguarding our environment. This will entail a need to transition our economy and communities to become more sustainable. The new Solihull Economic Strategy seeks to address these challenges and maximise future opportunities coming to Solihull.

A 6-week public consultation was launched on Tuesday via the Council’s new engagement platform ‘Your Voice Solihull’ and will run until Wednesday 15 March 2023.

To view the draft strategy and take part in the consultation visit:  https://yourvoicesolihull.uk.engagementhq.com/solihull-economic-strategy

We believe the ambitions, priorities and actions set out in our draft Strategy provide an exciting, fair and achievable roadmap for continued borough-wide economic growth over the next decade, but we want to know if you agree with our vision and priorities.

You may have been following some of the pioneering work we are doing as a local authority in exploring the safe and practical applications of Connected Automated Vehicles (CAV), and looking at how they might be incorporated into our transport network to help meet local public transport need. In 2021 we became the first Council in the country to purchase our own electric and fully automated shuttle, using a grant from the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP). Since then, successful passenger trials have been carried out at both Birmingham Airport and the NEC, where our shuttle was also used in the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay. 

Building on our reputation in this emerging area of transport and mobility we learnt yesterday that we have secured government funding for the development of two significant new projects, which could establish some of the country’s first commercial CAV routes. Working with leading autonomous technology provider Conigital, Transport for West Midlands and other partners, the first of these projects will see a new fleet of self-driving shuttles ferrying passengers between Birmingham International rail station and Birmingham Business Park via the NEC.

We are also working with TfWM, and ZF based in Solihull on a separate, but equally significant project, to undertake a feasibility study into whether these shuttles could operate along a segregated route to connect East Birmingham and North Solihull.

CAV technology has the potential revolutionise the way we get around, as well as how we transport goods. Working with our partners we are excited to be leading the way, not just in Solihull, but regionally and across the country, in providing learning on how CAV can work  in different settings and scenarios.

Finally, Solihull Council’s electric cargo bike showed its versatility this week by doing the heavy lifting in a community litter pick event in North Solihull. With a carrying capacity of 900 litres or 100kg of weight, the e-cargo bike proved to be a useful and eco-friendly addition for enthusiastic litter pickers in Chelmsley Wood.

The e-cargo bike, branded in ‘Your Future Solihull’ colours, is available free of charge to businesses and community groups on a trial basis. The scheme is part of Solihull Council’s commitment to active travel, clean air, carbon reduction and congestion relief.

If your business or community group is interested in loaning a bike or wants to find out more, get in touch with the sustainable travel team at sustainabletravelteam@solihull.gov.uk

Have a good weekend,

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council