14 October - Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council


In my last message I wrote about Solihull Council being small enough to care, but big enough to make a difference. This week it’s been brilliant to see projects that represent that “duality” being launched and being recognised for the impact they’ve had across business, the environment, and children’s servicesFor example, the Council has now acquired three properties within the borough which will be transformed into residential children’s homes. Once refurbished, these homes will allow us to provide safe and caring environments for children who need it most.

These new homes, along with the recently launched campaign to recruit more foster carers, reflect the hard work and real desire of colleagues across the council to ensure that we do the very best for our children. I’m proud of the steps being taken to reach that goal. If you think you could contribute to changing children’s lives in a positive way, then I urge you to attend our virtual fostering information event on Tuesday 18 October.

Another crucial aspect of improving the lives of young people is creating opportunities for them once they leave school.

We’re fortunate to have so many excellent employers throughout the borough, and many of them were present at the Solihull Apprenticeship Show on Wednesday 12 October. Actually, the hall was packed when Deputy Leader Karen Grinsell and I attended, with more of my councillor colleagues. I understand nearly 2000 people were there, engaging and being so keen to take advantage of the great opportunities offered to them by local employers and trainers such as Jaguar Land Rover, NEC Group, Solihull College, and, of course, our Solihull Council team.

As an advocate of careers for young women and men in the building industry, it was great to see so many companies from that sector.

Considering the impact the pandemic had on our ability to host the show in 2020 and 2021, the level of enthusiasm from all of those who turned out was fantastic to see. It really demonstrated how important events like these are in facilitating alternative career paths for future generations.

I was particularly pleased to see many current apprentices there sharing their experiences with those who are looking to follow in their footsteps. I’m sure that for many of the young people in attendance the Solihull Apprenticeship Show will have been the first step towards a rewarding and fulfilling career.

To ensure these opportunities continue to be available to our young people in Solihull, it’s vital that we attract new businesses and employers to our borough.

That’s one of the reasons I was so pleased to read this week that the Government is planning to open a new research and testing centre that will aim to improve the resilience of the nation’s telecoms network here in Solihull.

In a UK first, the UK Telecoms Lab will provide a secure setting for operators, suppliers, and academics to collaborate on research as they look to develop new ways of ensuring the security and performance of mobile networks in our country. This will create dozens of specialised jobs in skilled fields. Hosting such an important national collaborative project is great news for Solihull.

Collaboration has been something of a theme this week, as the new high-spec Dickens Heath flexible workspace, jointly developed by the Council and Third Space Solutions, enjoyed a successful opening.

The workspace, located on the first floor of Dickens Heath Library, offers local residents an innovative place to work, whether they are looking to cut down their commute, find a space for their start-up or set up somewhere a little more comfortable than the kitchen table.

The space has been well received by both early customers and the press, you can read more about it in this piece from Birmingham Live.

The next subject has mixed reactions from residents, but many people who do need to commute into Solihull town centre have been enjoying the benefits of our active travel infrastructure project that provides a safe route into town.

Earlier this week I was pleased to see that our new segregated 3km route for cyclists, joggers and pedestrians along the A34 has been shortlisted for a national award. I know some people are yet to be convinced, but it was encouraging to see that the students at Alderbrook School and Sixth Form are using it every day to travel to and from school safely. In particular, it offers inexperienced cyclists a safer way to travel. You can read more about it and the award it has been nominated for here.

In Tudor Grange and Hillfield Parks this autumn, our contractors Ebsford Environmental will be undertaking extensive restoration works to the pond and brook. Coppicing, de-silting, and removing concrete linings will encourage natural river processes and enable more sunlight to reach the pond and restore the habits of native plant, fish, bird and invertebrate species. You can read more about the project here.

This week is National Hate Crime Awareness Week. We all have a responsibility to call out hate crime whenever or wherever we see it. Any crime motivated by hostility based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity is hate crime. This week offers the opportunity to ensure that everyone is aware of how to report such abhorrent acts. To find out more, click here.

Finally, Diwali is coming up soon so I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of events at The Core Theatre in honour of this celebration. A family friendly day of activities on Saturday 29 October will follow an evening of comedy on Friday 28. You can find out more about these events and book tickets here. I look forward to seeing the spectacular fireworks that are such a feature of this festival of light. 

Enjoy your weekend, and don’t forget if you’re travelling by car - the M42 will be closed between junctions 5 and 6 on Saturday and Sunday for the installation of a new bridge, so please allow a bit more time to get round the diversion.

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council