The clocks have gone back, and, as we move towards winter, these darker evenings are a natural time for reflection and introspection. One of the things that has given me cause to ponder a lot is the issue of tolerance, civility and mutual understanding, and the difficulties we face keeping those vital components alive amidst the polarised political (and other types of) discourse in the world we live in today.
Anyone who has served as Mayor will recall giving a message of welcome to some of our newest British Citizens at a regular citizenship ceremony in the Civic Suite. Tolerance and civility feature as key themes of this welcome. We’ve rightly pushed the message that we are proud of these characteristics in this country, and that they are worth defending. It is more important now than ever that we continue to promote these virtues. I know I’m not alone in noting that the world seems to have become increasingly polarised to the point where it is difficult to find nuance, or for two people with opposing views to look for common ground.
I don’t want to connect this to any particular political points, I’m talking more of a general theme, a feeling that we might be losing the ability to disagree politely and to look for the areas of overlap in our viewpoints. Diversity of opinion drives debate that leads to progress.
I’m sure there are many reasons for the trend I’ve noticed. Maybe it’s social media, condensing opinions into 280 characters or even just a short picture caption, leaving no room for nuance so you have to express the simplest, and sometimes most extreme, form of your argument. This is usually related to big national and international matters, but we also see it on a local level, online and offline, as people entrench themselves deeply on issues like, say, parking, or housebuilding, and cannot see that the other side may have a perfectly valid point of view that is different to their own. Please don’t think I’m targeting any particular group, I’m not claiming to be above this, I’m sure I’ve been personally guilty of it on many occasions. I’m asking that we all, myself included, take a little time when we next see something we disagree with, and consider how we can respond with civility and tolerance. Who knows, we might just be able to make a difference.
This week we welcome Sir Alan Wood, who has been appointed by the Secretary of State for Education as Commissioner for Solihull. As I mentioned in a previous statement, this appointment is as a result of our Improvement Notice for children’s social care escalating to a Statutory Direction, which was published today, Tuesday 1 November. We, and our partner organisations who are responsible for safeguarding children in Solihull, are ready to give the Commissioner our full support and welcome any extra support or advice to improve the safeguarding of children, young people and families in Solihull.
I was very pleased to read about the free art trail in Shirley that was enjoyed by many children this half-term. Pickle Illustration did a wonderful job transforming six utility boxes along the Stratford Road into celebrations of flowers and plants and the bugs that thrive because of them. Getting children engaged in the natural world around them at a young age is really important as we look towards the future of that world.
The future of our environment is a cause very close to my heart, as anyone who reads this message regularly will know. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on that topic very soon, as I’ll be recording a podcast to coincide with the upcoming COP27 conference, which begins next Monday. I did this before during COP26 and was really pleased with the response, it’s a good way to tackle a very complex topic, given the space and time allowed by the format, I hope you’ll listen in. Details will be in a future edition of this message.
Have a great week,
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council