I do hope everyone manages to stay safe as Storm Eunice sweeps through the borough today. Our emergency teams are on standby and unfortunately we had to close Bickenhill Household Waste and Recycling Centre at midday due to the high winds. I sincerely hope we can weather this storm without too much damage.
I’d like to echo Cllr Sleigh’s warning to residents to be on guard against potential fraudsters following the recent Government announcement of a £150 council tax rebate.
Apparently we have already had reports of potential fraudsters trying to take advantage of this scheme by contacting people and asking for bank details - pretending it’s related to the energy bill rebate.
But we would never telephone you unannounced and ask for your bank details.
This one-off rebate payment is part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s plans to support families amid rising global energy prices and will be available to eligible households from April. The best way to ensure you get the rebate is to set up a direct debit for council tax and then we will pay eligible households in council tax bands A-D directly on behalf of the government.
On a cultural theme, I was pleased to see us celebrating our connection to the world famous poet WH Auden. The first ever Auden Festival will be taking place in Solihull this weekend from 18 to 21 February.
Auden, much-loved for his poems such as ‘Funeral Blues’, spent the formative years of his life in Solihull. He lived on Lode Lane and Homer Road in the town centre and was a regular visitor to St Alphege Church.
This new festival is a collaboration between Solihull Council and Solihull Business Improvement District, and is programmed by Parrabbola, an international community arts organisation. It will explore Auden’s artistic output through interpretations of his work, as well as celebrating that of his collaborators and contemporaries. It focuses on the ‘Art For All’ ethos, bringing the arts to everyone. You can find out more details about the Auden festival here.
This week I also had the pleasure of being shown round the National College for Advanced Transport & Infrastructure (NCATI) by the Principal and Chief Executive, Ian Fitzpatrick. Based in Birmingham, the college is providing opportunities for young people across the region to become our next new generation of highly skilled professionals taking a lead in delivering the UK’s future rail, transport and infrastructure projects.
NCATI is now part of the University of Birmingham group which has underpinned the quality of learning on offer. Students can focus on specialist skills such as civil engineering, systems engineering and digital design that will lead to careers in these sectors and others such as project management and digital communication.
It was great to see what opportunities the college can offer and how we can be confident we will have the necessary skilled engineers to build our future.
Finally, I would like to congratulate Solihull Community Housing (SCH) for their recent success at the Housing Digital Innovation Awards where their Customer Engagement team won the ‘Most Innovative Approach to Resident Involvement’ category. The team supports residents to have a greater say on their homes and the services delivered by SCH. This has been achieved through innovations such as the SCHape Panel, Virtual Improvement Panel and Building Safety Advocates. This is great work, well done.
Please take care this weekend
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council