We continue to see high rates of COVID infections in the borough but thanks to the incredibly successful vaccination programme we can now imagine living with this virus and returning to a new ‘normal’.
For the full picture of COVID in Solihull read the latest message from our Director of Public Health.
Last week’s cabinet meeting illustrated the shift from COVID and to returning to the bread and butter of delivering new economic opportunities, supporting our vulnerable communities and keeping a tight grip on the Council finances.
In terms of COVID, our Director of Public Health presented her draft annual report, which looked at all the efforts the Council, our partners and our communities put into tackling COVID and keeping people safe during the pandemic.
It is a fitting testament to what Solihull experienced as part of this unprecedented time in our nation’s history. I hope our collective trials and tribulations are not forgotten and that we also continue to remember the people who sadly died because of this terrible pandemic.
At cabinet we were also asked to approve a consultation of the future shape of Chelmsley Wood town centre. This is another major scheme, alongside Kingshurst redevelopment, that could create new opportunities for people in the north of our borough and follows on from the successful Asda investment in the centre. The aim of this work is to make sure Chelmsley Wood town centre continues to thrive and serve the needs of the local community.
We know from talking to local residents and shoppers that they would like to see an improved selection of shops and bars as well as other leisure and entertainment outlets.
There is also a desire for a community hub, more green spaces and improved public realm. In addition to better bus services people also want improved pedestrian safety.
This is a long list, but addressing these issues is at the heart of our thinking. It will take a number of years to deliver as it is a difficult scheme, but we will work closely with stakeholders and landowners to provide the right solution for local residents.
At Thursday’s meeting we approved the next phase of consultation around the north west quarter of the town which will help us come up with a series of options for the redevelopment. With this feedback we can better understand the implications of the different options and start building a viable masterplan.
We also accepted nearly a million pounds (£997,220) from the Department for Education to deliver the government’s Holiday Activity and Food programme (HAF) in Solihull during 2022/23.
This funding will once again allow us to create holiday provision for our children from 4-16 years old, who receive benefits-related free school meals. The children and young
people who participate, will get to eat healthy nutritious meals and take part in a range of enriching activities during their school holidays. It has been a life-saver for many parents worried about food bills and trying to keep their children active.
On a packed agenda we discussed the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy. This is the cornerstone of our prudent financial management. We have for many years budgeted over a three year rolling period.
This approach has allowed us to deliver savings and efficiencies to ensure the Council finances are in good health. Our approach has enabled us to continue to invest into our communities and ensure we continue to provide the high quality services residents and businesses expect and need.
It is only through tight financial management that the Council has weathered the various financial and societal storms, such as the 2008 financial crash and the COVID pandemic.
This year’s budget will be as challenging as ever, but we have a track record of making every penny count.
Finally, it was great to hear that the West Midlands Combined Authority has secured £7.5 million from the Government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to retrofit social housing in the region – improving insulation and heating systems. Homes are the highest carbon emitters in the region, accounting for 39% of emissions, that’s ahead of industry and transport.
Through the WMCA and its partners we will be able to support a programme of investment into our housing stock and help people live in homes that will be both warmer and more energy-efficient.
Best wishes and Happy Valentine’s day!
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council