For my first post-election message I want to thank everyone who voted in last week’s elections, not of course just those who may have cast their ballot for me (!), but all those who made the effort to vote right across the borough.
Local elections are important. Solihull Council provides the services that you use every day of the week, from waste collections to schools’ admissions, from libraries to roads and everything in-between. It is vital that the organisation delivering these services is under democratic control and is open to scrutiny and challenge at the ballot box.
I welcome the councillors new to Solihull Council and those who have sought re-election and succeeded. There will be much to keep us busy over the coming year and I look forward to working with you all.
I must also pay tribute to all the Council staff, the polling clerks, counters and volunteers who make these elections possible. Once again it was a slick operation in Solihull, so on behalf of all candidates thank you.
I would also like to mention our democratic services team, who went above and beyond to help a poor woman who slipped over at a polling station and it turns out had broken her hip. The polling clerk called an ambulance and alerted our democratic services team.
The woman was without her phone but knew her daughter’s address, so one of the team went to her daughter’s home while another headed for the polling station. The daughter was able to speak to her mum, decided to go to the polling station and took her to A&E. A small example of why I am so proud of the people who work at the Council.
Following Thursday’s elections, the Conservative party remains in control of the Council and next week at the ‘Mayor Making’ Council meeting, I will announce my new cabinet. Council will also appoint councillors to the various committees and outside bodies.
Foster care fortnight (9-22 May) and it’s a great opportunity to focus on those who throw open their hearts and their homes to children and young people. They deserve our appreciation and respect for this vital role they play. This year’s theme is ‘fostering communities’, focusing on the many ways in which people across the fostering community support each other.
We’re running a virtual fostering information evening on Wednesday 18 May. If you are interested in attending, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be provided with the link to the event. Do something amazing and make a positive difference to a child’s life, the fostering team would love to talk to you. Please call 0121 788 4253 to find out more or visit www.solihull.gov.uk/fostering.
This week is also ‘Mental health awareness week’, something close to my heart. The theme is connection – and the loneliness we feel when we do not connect regularly with family, friends and colleagues. Connecting with people has never been more important for our mental health and wellbeing, so let’s all make sure that we take time to check in with each other and together we can tackle loneliness.
For those seeking help, drop-in sessions are being run by Mental Health Matters on behalf of the Council. The service offers one-to-one support and group sessions, seven days a week, from community locations in north, central and south Solihull.
The drop-ins provide a safe space for people to access support information on a range of topics including wellbeing, housing and employment, as well as socialise with others in a comfortable, non-judgemental environment.
I am pleased that at last I can share some exciting news about the forthcoming Commonwealth Games’ Queen’s Baton Relay. This will take place on Tuesday 26 July. The baton will travel to all corners of the borough and I hope everyone will get behind the relay and line our streets, villages and towns to cheer it on its way to Birmingham’s Alexander stadium and the opening of this year’s games.
It will be a great opportunity for Solihull to be in the media spotlight and we will have the honour of hosting the longest Commonwealth Games route in the West Midlands.
Finally, the news from Ukraine has continued to be sobering and inspiring at the same time. The loss of life, the destruction and the brutality of the Russian aggressors has been shocking, but the bravery of the Ukraine people continues to inspire.
We have welcomed increasing numbers of refugees from Ukraine at Birmingham Airport and our resilience team has been on site providing practical support to those who need it.
If you want to support Ukraine now, have a look at the information here.
Finally, take care and live in hope.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council