The Queen’s 70-year Platinum Jubilee provided us with an opportunity to get together with friends, family and people within our communities. How welcome was this, given the difficult circumstances we have endured over the last two years and the current challenges we face?
Times are very tough with the continuing illegal war in Ukraine and the really frightening energy price increases, that are feeding a cost of living crisis. In the background there is the ever present climate change emergency.
While many of these issues are beyond a local council to solve, we do have a part to play, both as a council and strongly fighting our corner in the region. For instance, I mentioned a while back the £19 million Sustainable Warmth funding secured by the Midlands Net Zero Hub. This money will see 150 properties in Elmdon become more energy efficient, potentially saving householders money on their energy bills. They could benefit from being fully retrofitted with insulation, heating systems and even solar panels, not only making the homes warmer, but more energy efficient and reducing their bills.
Nearly 40% of the region’s carbon emissions come from heating and powering our homes. Retrofitting has a key role to play in reducing emissions to meet our WM2041 net zero goal. This is just the start; as a region we aim to do so much more by supporting environmentally friendly housing, engaging with residents and house builders/developers to create whole communities of low carbon, energy efficient houses.
You’ll have seen in the news that the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games has nearly 5,000 vacancies for jobs in security, catering and cleaning that still need to be filled.
These jobs are a fantastic opportunity for people to get the skills that will help them in finding work after the Games. If you know anyone looking for work or someone who may not have formal qualifications and wants to get work experience, tell them to take a look at the wide variety of roles on offer - here.
Also if you know any sixth formers or students looking at a long empty summer then why not get them to take a look at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games jobs. It would be a great chance to get some valuable work experience, earn some money and it will look great on the CV.
Thursday, is national Clean Air Day The theme for this year’s campaign is “Air pollution dirties every organ in your body. Take steps to improve your health this Clean Air Day.” In Solihull we’ll be highlighting our school streets schemes, which keep streets around schools free of traffic, and encourage parents to walk children to school.
If you want to take part leave the car at home and opt to walk, bike or scoot short distance journeys such as when doing the school run. It is one of the simple steps we can all take to protect our health, our family’s and our children’s health.
Many of our schools have anti-idling campaigns aimed at getting people to switch off car engines while dropping off or picking up children. Some have walking initiatives – getting parents to park away from the school and walk in.
We also have a sustainable travel team working with companies and organisations to develop travel plans encouraging workers to ditch the car and use public transport, walk or cycle with incentives to buy bikes.
And we are encouraging more people to take a bike and leave the car behind by installing a number of new cycle lanes across the borough.
In other news, on Friday just gone I led a business focused summit to encourage local businesses to share in the economic benefits that HS2 is bringing to the region.
I know for some HS2 is a very difficult issue, but I’ve been consistent in saying right from the off, that if the railway happens we must maximise the economic benefits now and in the future for the people of Solihull.
HS2 is the largest infrastructure project in Europe and the most important economic and social regeneration project in decades and we will be at the heart of this new high speed rail network.
It is already creating new secure jobs, prompting spin-off developments, supporting a very long and high value supply chain as well as being a catalyst for wider improvements to our transport network.
Many will see that the construction work is well under way in the borough and the next phase to Manchester is in development, so there are plenty of opportunities for local small and medium sized enterprises to get involved.
The Friday summit was very well attended and there was real enthusiasm from local businesses to get involved. I will report back on any contract successes from our own Solihull business sector.
Finally, it’s not too late to nominate someone for this year’s Civic Honours awards as the closing date is 1 July. The awards are a wonderful way to recognise those unsung heroes who go above and beyond to make the borough a better place.
I know there are people, and groups, across the borough who quietly and conscientiously contribute greatly to their wider community. The awards are a chance to shine a light on their work and celebrate the great community spirit that Solihull is known for.
There are seven different categories, so please do take a moment to think about who you could nominate.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council