22 November – Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council


22 November – Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council

Last Sunday I attended the very moving ceremony of remembrance at St. Alphege Church. The Lord Lieutenant for the West Midlands, the Mayor of Solihull, representatives from the armed forces, community groups, veterans, and hundreds of members of the public were present. We commemorated those who have lost their lives for this country, lay wreaths, and observed the two-minute silence. I spoke last week of the importance of taking that time to remember their sacrifice, and it brought me great pride to see so many Silhillians come out to do just that. I’m sure I was not the only person whose thoughts turned to Ukraine, and the ongoing struggle their people face, defending their land and their liberty. War is far from being a thing of the past, the Ukrainian refugees we have so warmly welcomed here in Solihull and the rest of the country are testament to that.

Later in the day I was fortunate to be able to play my part in a wonderful project in Dorridge Park. Alongside members of Soroptimist International Solihull and District Club, we planted 250 daffodils and 500 bluebells in the Soroptomist’s Centenary Wood. Come springtime, the bulbs should form a beautiful carpet of colour which will provide pleasure for local residents and a habitat for wildlife for years to come. The bulbs were donated by the council, and Touchwood Limited donated a bench which provides a wonderful spot to relax and enjoy the floral display.

With the weather we’ve had this week, spring still feels a long way off, but we’re working hard with national and local organisations to ensure that Solihull residents get extra help this winter. This covers everything from advice and assistance with rising energy costs and additional support with food and finance, to support with health and wellbeing, or even a warm place to meet others over a cup of tea. We’ve also launched our annual Winter Warmth Helpline and emergency help. Please don’t sit back and think this help is for others. It’s there for everyone – you can visit the web pages, call our help lines at Connect or visit our libraries. Full information is here

It’s been a big week for climate action in Solihull, as we hosted our Solihull Schools Climate Conference in the Council chamber on Thursday 17 November. This was our own annual COP.  I’ve talked in previous editions of this message about the importance of engaging young people in Climate Change action. I was really proud to watch them acting the role of different countries across the world, arguing their case (one student said that representing Saudi Arabia was really tough!), negotiating, trying to reach agreements, speaking in a public forum, learning about the world, but learning life skills at the same time.

Events like this, with pupils from local schools having the chance to participate in a model summit, give those young people the chance to learn, not just about the climate, but also about the political processes involved in finding solutions (also not easy). It was great to see their passion for preserving our planet up close.  It was a real pleasure to present some of the winners with handmade acorn-shaped wooden plaques from Newlands Bishops Farm, a centre for work-based learning for people with learning disabilities in Solihull. You can read more about the event here.

We also released the second part of my COP27 podcast, in which I discuss the robust climate change action plan we have in place, and the extent to which emissions have been reduced across the borough. If you missed the first part, where we talk about the local and global challenges our environment faces, then you can catch up here.

Our wider region was recognised last week for the action we’re taking on climate change, with the granting of ‘A-list’ status to West Midlands Combined Authority by the Carbon Disclosure Project. Only around 12% of the 1000+ global cities that participate in this scheme, so it’s great that our region is really taking a lead. The award recognises the work done to improve reporting on environmental information and steps being taken to combat climate change, ranging from things like Community Green Grants to public transport infrastructure improvements. You can read more about it here.

Returning to the confines of the borough, I’m delighted to share the news that our environmental and ecological teams have won three awards for a breadth of fantastic projects. Public Realm, Planting Our Future and Conservation of the Historic Environment, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design and Ecology (CLAUDE) all picked up awards. What is special about the West Midlands National Park awards is that they shine a light on projects that make a real difference to the social, economic, and environmental transformation of the region. And that is exactly what our projects have done. Yes, they are all giving a welcome boost to wildlife, woodlands, wetlands, combatting carbon emissions and cleaning our air. But in so doing, they also improve the borough for our residents and visitors and support the social and economic transformation of the borough too. You can read more about the projects and the awards here.

This Thursday, 24 November, is Carers Rights Day. We’re holding an event just in advance of that day in the Civic Suite on Wednesday 23 November. The event will focus on practical support for carers with the cost of living and energy bills. It will also encourage people who help to look after someone to recognise themselves as carers and find out about the support available either at the event or by contacting Carers Trust Solihull. Carers do such important work for their families, often unrecognised, so we’re hoping to see as many people as possible at the event as we do what we can to support them.

I’d like to publicly offer my congratulations to Tony Elvin, CEO of Touchwood, on winning the National Manager of the year, Large Centre, at the Sceptre Awards last week. The awards recognise excellence in the shopping centre industry, and we’re fortunate that Touchwood, which offers so many retail and leisure facilities to our residents and visitors, has Tony at the helm. Thanks to him and his team, Solihull has a shopping centre that is a real asset in our town centre, bringing jobs and opportunities and increasing footfall for the whole town. Well done Tony!

Finally, I’ll have more news of awards success in my next message, after the council’s successes at the Solihull BID awards last Friday. Until then, have a good week,

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council