16 July 2021 – Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council


Our COVID rates continue to spike and cause us great concern. Both the Chief Executive and Solihull’s Director of Public Health are urging everyone in Solihull to continue to follow the COVID guidelines, get vaccinated and keep getting tests.

I said last week we were on a knife-edge and the numbers have only got worse. We all know the vast majority of COVID “legal restrictions” end on Monday. However, COVID is going to be with us, and in our society, for a long time; it really will be down to us, our common sense and our behaviours that will slow this wave of infections and in the longer term help us to adapt to the ever present threat that this virus presents. 

As a supporter of mask-wearing, I hope you will join me in this; when in shops, on public transport or, say, with a large number of people indoors, wear your mask or face covering.  This is not about being frightened of catching COVID, it is about ensuring you are not giving it to someone else, it is about protecting the people we love and those around us. 

And of course, let’s continue to support our NHS and health colleagues many of whom will be keeping the majority of their current COVID measures in place beyond Monday.  This includes wearing face coverings/masks when attending their sites and care homes, as well as observing social distancing in order to protect vulnerable patients as well as staff.

The roll out of the vaccine programme has for now broken the link between hospitalisation and severe COVID, but it has not removed it.  Just one dose of vaccination gives some protection against getting COVID and having symptoms, whilst two doses is highly effective against hospital admission, preventing around 95% of admissions.

So, if you are one of the 30,000 yet to have your first dose there’s no excuse for not getting jabbed and get double-dosed as soon as you can.

There is plenty of vaccine available and a wide range of places you can easily get vaccinated – this can be  via booked appointments or at one of the local walk-in vaccine sessions – I know we had the best performing walk-in vaccine session last Friday, so please check when and where the next session is happening in the borough here and grab your jab now!

Tackling climate change remains a priority.

This week I represented Solihull and the West Midlands Combined Authority at the International Net Zero Local Leadership Conference.  This was an online webinar involving 100 UK leaders from a variety of organisations.  It is the only network where locally elected leaders have pledged to play their part by switching to 100% clean energy by 2050.  Here in Solihull Council we have taken the initiative to set ourselves a much more challenging target of achieving net zero by 2030 and being part of a net zero region by 2041.  

I chaired the panel discussion on Decarbonising Homes and Heating, with making older homes and businesses more energy efficient becoming a particular focus. The challenge is how to achieve this efficiently, affordably, and at scale. Scale is needed, as homes and other buildings are responsible for over a third of carbon emissions.

This type of conference is not just about having a “discussion”, it is about sharing best practice and building relationships.  It helps us learn from each other and take practical action which will be needed on so many fronts, and frankly, by everyone. The day-long online webinar gave us all an opportunity to discuss priorities for our local climate actions in the lead up to COP26, the UN climate Change Conference which is being hosted in Glasgow in October.

I have two pieces of good news to share.

You may have heard that HMV will be returning to Mell Square with a brand new shop that will create eight new jobs.  It’s opening on 20 July, which just happens to be the 100-year anniversary of their first shop opening. 

I think this shows that Solihull is still a good place to do business and remains attractive to retailers.  I am confident they will not be the last to invest in the town, and our ownership of Mell Square puts us in a great position to play an active role in keeping Solihull town centre as a key regional retail and business centre.

The second good news story is that Cabinet last night agreed to further financial support to continue the regeneration of Kingshurst Village Centre. The decision underlines our commitment to Kingshurst to meet local needs and provide affordable housing.  It is only thanks to our responsible and prudent financial management over the past decade that we have been able to access this funding from our reserves.

With the Council now taking on the role of delivering this development, it shows we can be flexible and find different ways to deliver the vision of high-standard modern family housing along with a range of local services, amenities and healthcare provision. This is a once in a generation opportunity to transform the centre, as we have done at Chelmund’s Cross and Smith’s Wood, and through our investment in schools.

Finally, I want to extend another personal big thank-you to school leaders and school staff.  It has been yet another difficult time with high pupil and staff absences due to self-isolation and rising numbers of cases, on top of a really challenging year.  But you have continued to put the best interests of pupils first. I hope you all have a relaxing and reviving summer holiday.

And yes, as I thank schools, I have to thank parents for stoically dealing with the frequent testing of their children and having to put in place childcare arrangements when school bubbles have burst. I hope you too have a good summer.

Please keep doing the right thing – get vaccinated for you, your family, friends and this wonderful borough of ours.

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council