07 July 2023 – Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council


I noticed an article this week that mentioned Shirley Park had been named as one of the 20 best parks in the country for a picnic. Whilst I can’t be entirely sure of the methodological principles behind the research that was conducted by a manufacturer of premade cocktails to produce this result, I do agree with their conclusion. Shirley Park is one of many excellent parks and public spaces all across our borough for a picnic, indeed we have 16 Green Flag parks. As the summer rolls on I’d urge you to get out and make use of them. There’s a full list here.

I’d also like to take this chance to point out that our parks and public spaces don’t remain beautiful just by magic. Hard-working Council staff do a great job and they are ably supported by hundreds of volunteers and our wider community chipping in to keep them clean, tidy, and well maintained. We’ve recently rolled out anti-graffiti tool packs to the wonderful Love Solihull volunteers to help them keep street furniture looking how we all want it to, and we’re seeing excellent results following our recent graffiti summit as we work with partners like Network Rail and Virgin Media to keep things like bridges and cable boxes bright and beautiful. A lot of work goes in to making sure our lived environment is one we can all enjoy, and I’m very grateful to everyone who plays a part in that.

Given that I’ve already talked up the qualities of Shirley Park it’s good timing that the ever-popular annual Shirley Carnival returns this Saturday, featuring something for all ages including stalls, games, food outlets and fun fair attractions. This well supported event, organised by the Shirley Lions, epitomises the community spirit we have in abundance right across our borough. Look out for our fostering team, who will be there and can answer questions about what fostering a Solihull child involves and how foster carers really do change children’s lives for the better.

Whether you’ve not been before or regularly attend, I would highly recommend the event, which will be opened at midday by the Mayor of Solihull, with entry £3 per person and £10 for a family of four. All proceeds go to support a wide range of mainly local groups and charities, so by going you will be helping raise important funds that make a real difference to local people, with 2022 donations helping around 40 organisations. See here for carnival information.

This week I was delighted to get behind Planting Our Future’s campaign to encourage people to help young trees.  As regular readers of this message will know, we’re on a mission to plant 250,000 trees in the borough by 2030 – and are well on target - but young trees need particular care and regular watering, and our increasingly dry summer months are threatening their development. If we can all remember to take some water with us for young trees on our regular walks, then they will have a much better chance of surviving into maturity. It doesn’t need to be fresh tap water, washing up water is fine. Good for the trees, good for the wildlife they will support, good for the environment and good for our wellbeing too. You can read more about the campaign here.

Some good news to bring you from my role as WMCA portfolio lead for housing and land – we’ve announced a new partnership with Keepmoat, a major homebuilding firm. They’re committed to delivering 4000 new homes with a focus on sustainable development of brownfield sites. As our population continues to grow, we need to deliver great places for people to live and I’m delighted that we’re finding ways to do this whilst protecting greenbelt land and ensuring that the houses being built are high quality and energy efficient. You can read more about the agreement here.  

A little more from WMCA, and I’m happy to report that over 100 business have now signed the West Midlands Net Zero Business Pledge. The pledge commits businesses to reducing their emissions in line with the region’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2041. It also gives them access to a community of forward thinking businesses who’ve chosen to do the same, as well as guidance on support on reaching the goal. If you think your business could benefit from making the pledge you can find out more here.

Yesterday (6 July) marked the one year anniversary of the start of Cancer Research UK’s #SmokefreeUK campaign. It’s an admirable piece of work, putting pressure on government to keep smoking rates trending downwards and help people to stop. Smoking is a blight on people’s health and on our NHS and I wish their campaign every success. If you’d like to support them you can find out all the information here.

On Tuesday the Council chose to recommend to the Boundary Commission that we continue to be a 17 ward, 51 member Council. The Majority feeling is that the system works well as it is and 3 is the right amount of councillors to represent each of our wards and support residents with the challenges and opportunities in the places where they live. The decision won’t be final for a while yet, and at some point it is likely there will be a consultation with residents. Details of that will be shared as soon as they are available.

Finally, I wrote at length last week about the new Urgent Treatment Centre at Solihull Hospital. Yesterday morning I visited the site with Councillor Karen Grinsell, our Deputy Leader, and we spoke about the great new facility and the campaign to get it open for our residents. You can see that conversation here.

Thanks, and have a good weekend,

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council

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