I don’t usually like to talk about myself much in these messages: it’s more a platform to highlight good things, explain how we’ll improve things that need improving, and often just bring stuff to your attention that you might find interesting. On this occasion, I do have a bit of personal news. My role at the West Midlands Combined Authority is changing. I’ve been Portfolio Lead for Environment, Energy & HS2 there for four years and I’m proud of what we have been able to achieve for the green growth and climate change agenda across the West Midlands in that time: including the launch of our #WM2041 action plan, setting out our plans for reducing carbon emissions, improving the natural environment, a focus on retrofit and promoting the potential of the region for a “green” industrial revolution.
Going forward, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has asked me to take on lead member responsibility for Housing and Land. The need for new housing is indisputable; the problem is always where it goes and making sure it is of the right standard. In particular, there is the need to ensure that the use of brownfield sites across the region is maximised and that new homes are as energy efficient as possible. You’ll get updates in future editions of this message about the progress I make in my new role, particularly, of course, when it has an impact in Solihull. Rest assured, however, that my interest in the environment, which goes to the heart of our DNA in Solihull, remains undiminished.
I’m sure everyone who has been to Solihull town centre recently has noticed, as I have, how lively and bustling it feels in the sunshine. We’re very keen to ensure it remains a vibrant, attractive, and welcoming place for everyone to live, work and visit, so we’ve launched a consultation on our Public Realm Strategy.
This important piece of work will help guide design principles for future developments and provide continuity across all the public spaces, streets, and green spaces within our town centre. It will also help underpin the Council’s aim of supporting continued investment in our town centre and making it even better.
The consultation material, which includes a 3D virtual flythrough video showing what improvements to the High Street might look like and an accompanying survey, can be found on the Council’s website.
This work builds on previous plans and strategies with the same aim, but we’re really excited about the scope and ambition this time around. Our draft strategy sets out an overarching vision for Solihull’s public realm. From bins to benches and lighting to street signage, we want to ensure our approach to high quality public spaces respects and enhances Solihull’s distinctiveness and identity.
Be sure to check the proposals out and share your comments and feedback with us. It’s really important that we hear from a wide range of residents, businesses and visitors to Solihull town centre. Your feedback will be crucial in helping to shape how the town centre looks in the future.
From public space improvement to home improvement, if you live in an off-gas property and meet certain restrictions you could be eligible for a Home Upgrade Grant to help improve energy efficiency and keep your bills down. Improving insulation keeps your home cool in the summer as well as warm in the winter, so do act soon. There’s more information about who can apply, and a list of energy drop-in events where you can get advice and support here.
Last week I talked about the partnership our Children’s Services team will be forming with Birmingham Children’s Trust to help raise standards for our young people. This week I’m pleased to report another important piece of partnership working in that sector, as senior leaders at the Council, the Integrated Care Board (NHS) and West Midlands Police have announced new multi-agency safeguarding arrangements for Solihull. Guidelines and arrangements like these can seem like technical ‘ivory tower’ stuff, but they have a real impact on the ground and really help protect children from harm. Sharing information quickly and accurately is important, so making sure we’re all working in a joined-up way is vital to the success of our local safeguarding services. You can read more, including the full partnership document, here.
I’ve spoken before in this message about ensuring everyone in Solihull gets to enjoy the benefits of local economic growth and success, and making sure that good jobs are attainable for everyone is a big part of that. That’s why it was so heartening to read about the good work done by the Council’s Employment and Skills Team in helping people with further needs into the workplace. Learning Disabilities Week is next week (19-25 June), so if you’re a business owner it’s a good time to think about how being an inclusive employer can benefit you and our community. You can get support and advice from the Council. There’s some excellent comments from Roy Nash, who manages Arden Hotel and Leisure Club, and my colleague Councillor Karen Grinsell, our Deputy Leader, in this piece about how inclusive growth and employment benefit everyone.
Last but not least, I know there are few things that drive our residents up the wall quite like potholes, so I hope you’ll be pleased to hear that I’ll be bringing you a special feature on the process for dealing with potholes we use at the Council, including news of some additional funding to help tackle the problem. Look out for that in a future edition.
Thanks for reading, and have a good weekend everyone, hopefully the weather will stay glorious as England take on Australia in a continuation of the oldest rivalry in cricket just up the road at Edgbaston. Good luck to Ben Stokes’ team and enjoy yourself (responsibly) if you’re going along to watch.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council