As the daily toll of Russian atrocities in the Ukraine grows, the work goes on, nationally and locally, to prepare for what we will do in playing our part to help in this crisis. The news from Ukraine is tough to watch, a seemingly never ending destruction of homes and buildings, towns and villages - even a theatre, for heaven’s sake, used for sheltering civilians. A tide of civilians fleeing for their lives.
It has been heart-warming to see Poles, Hungarians, Slovakians, Moldovans, Romanians and Germans welcoming refugees with shelter and food, with many members of the public coming forward to offer sanctuary in their own homes.
I am also proud that we are showing a similar level of compassion to our European friends. Over 100,000 Brits including many Silhillians have signed up to the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ initiative, all of us united in our condemnation of Russia’s violence and its illegal invasion; all determined to show that as a European family we care; that we want dialogue and tolerance to replace the Kremlin’s fear, lies and unwarranted aggression, as the way we do business in the 21st century.
This Russian-created crisis will, I am sorry to say, take months and years to resolve, whatever the military outcome. Alongside the tragic civilian death toll of the war, millions of Ukrainians will lose their homes, their jobs, their communities in a sad echo of WWII, and the huge population movements driven by the conflict. Already an estimated 3 million have fled Ukraine and if the Russian offensive continues, this will just grow.
The dialogue with government has commenced about arrangements for hosting refugees that will directly involve the Council. I have been discussing with my team the many aspects of life that could be involved in this. One issue that I have been concerned about is the whole culture and language issue, connecting communities, bearing in mind who we might be welcoming and their particular needs.
If you want to support Ukraine now, have a look at the information and links here.
I must move on to some local matters, and there is important local news concerning our environmental services. I was disappointed to hear that the GMB’s negotiations with Amey broke down late last week, despite the company’s latest offer of “4.21% pay increase, especially following a pay increase of between 6-12% for drivers in Solihull agreed in October.”
Following the recent ballot, it looks as if some of Amey’s employees who deliver a range of environmental services, including street care and bin collections, could be taking industrial action from 28 March to 1 April. The GMB has gone back to its members with Amey’s final offer, so it is up to GMB union members if they choose to strike.
Because we have a contract with Amey to deliver these services, it is up to them to manage their staff, but we’ve made it clear our priority is to keep the waste collections continuing as normal as is possible. Amey has said that they are “confident that despite the proposed action we will be able to deliver our services without significant disruption to our client Solihull and its residents.”
I know my officers will work closely with Amey to minimise any potential disruption to you.
We will update the Council website and post on social media if there are any disruptions to services.
This week saw the publication of the Solihull Youth Climate Action Survey, which captured the views of over 550 young people in Solihull on how they feel about climate change. The fantastic response rate illustrates yet again just how passionate the next generation of Silhillians are about protecting the planet.
The survey reinforced the view that young people take climate change very seriously with 8 in 10 saying they are concerned, a similar number of respondents say they expect the Council to play its part in tackling this issue and a majority recognise climate change will affect their lives in the future.
Thank you to everyone who took part in the survey. We’ll be using the data to positively influence our approach to delivering Solihull’s Net Zero Action Plan. You can read more about the survey results here (insert link).
Today is an opportunity for everyone to take part in the first national ‘Social Care Day of Remembrance and Reflection’.
It was an opportunity to say thank you to everyone who works in adult social care and to remember the people who lost their lives while caring for others. For me, this is particularly relevant. Last week, I heard a group of staff explain their own roles during Covid, stepping in during lockdown to help do a variety of tasks for others and take personal risks at a time when we had no idea of the highly successful vaccination programme that was to come later.
Our thank you goes also to people working in care homes, or providing care in people’s own homes, personal assistants, people who work in housing with care (also known as extra care or supported living) as well as social workers, occupational therapists, day opportunities staff and all other roles in adult social care.
Please take a moment to think about their dedication and sacrifice to keep others safe. There are a number of ways to show your thanks.
And finally the Mayor and the Queen’s Deputy Lieutenant Chris Loughran, were out with students and staff from Light Hall School and council staff to plant ten trees at Light Hall School last week as part of The Queen’s Green Canopy. These trees will help support and sustain local wildlife and create a lasting legacy for future students to enjoy.
We are now coming to the end of this tree planting season, but we’re still pushing ahead on our ambition to plant 250,000 trees in ten years through our ‘Planting our Future’ initiative. Whether you are interested in supporting this and have suitable land, or you would like to get involved in planting, or you just want more information, please email the Planting our Future team at - email@example.com.
As we reflect on how lucky we are to live in the open and democratic society that we do, let us hope and pray for relief for the people of Ukraine, may Russia comes to its senses soon to stop the bloodshed. In the meantime, let us support Ukraine and its people in whatever way we can.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council