Last week we were faced with the senseless and tragic death of Sir David Amess, a hard-working and much loved family man, killed while serving his constituents.
It has sent shockwaves through parliament, local politics and all public life. Extremist violence can affect us all as the previous atrocities in London and Manchester have shown, but none the less but this incident is still shocking.
This is a difficult time for our MPs in particular and for us as local politicians too. And while actual violence is fortunately rare, social media allows people to abuse others anonymously. It has coarsened how we talk and debate, which has inevitably leaked out into our day to day politics, especially as we have had to deal with controversial and divisive issues such as Brexit and the response to COVID.
I can assure you that as politicians we seek to serve the communities who elect us and to represent their views as best we can. But the rising level of aggression, abuse and ill will is something we as a society need to reflect on.
I recognise there will always be differences of opinion and policy, some issues like HS2 and the local Plan can inflame passions. Feeling can run high. But our democracy depends upon allowing elected representatives to be able to go about their business safely both in person and online.
I have not mentioned the COVID situation in Solihull for a while, but our Director of Public Health’s message this week makes it clear that COVID is still here. COVID cases are rising and interfering more and more with the care that hospitals, the NHS and can provide There are growing calls from health professionals for us to return to mandatory face covering, social distancing etc. It is in our hands if we want to continue to mix socially and at work, we must remain cautious.
With COP26 around the corner I welcomed the government setting out on Tuesday a number of its plans to put the UK on course to achieve its climate goals. Funding for green cars, an end to gas boilers and tree-planting are some of the key announcements. Let us hope that internationally action is also taken to cut emissions. Tackling climate change is everyone’s business but does needs action at scale.
One issue that we will all be interested in, is how this green revolution can be funded fairly across society. To answer this question, the Treasury will be launching a review of the financial implications of the green revolution.
Who pays and how will be key to any policy success, although it is clear the private sector is already exploring new opportunities. We need more innovation and investment to ensure the West Midlands remains at the forefront of the Green Industrial Revolution, like it was for the industrial revolution.
Every challenge equates to an opportunity and I am seeing business daily grasp these opportunities.
I would also like to mention the Art at the Heart’s young artist’s exhibition in the Courtyard Gallery in the Core. It showcases art created within the community in Solihull before the pandemic. I am really keen to see arts and culture stepped up in the borough so welcome this exhibition.
‘Art at the Heart’ are a Community Interest Company which aims to improve health and wellbeing in Solihull. The Cultural Learning Association found those taking part in art activities become more engaged in their communities alongside tangible health benefits, with those taking part being 38% more likely to report good health than those that don’t.
So, do get along and see what our young people have created.
Finally, I’d like to talk about the Hope Stone which was recently installed at Katherine’s Wood, in Lavender Hall Bank, Balsall Common. It was created as a new symbol of hope and a tribute to all those affected by the pandemic. I want it to symbolise hope in difficult times, pay tribute to those who have suffered and give sincere thanks to all those who helped.
I know many of us have found peace and quiet in places like Katherine’s Wood, along with a renewed appreciation of nature and its value to us all. It seemed appropriate to name the new stone Hope and join the existing stones Health, Happiness and Harmony to create this new focus for contemplation within this beautiful wood.
Get vaccinated; both COVID and Flu.
Mask up in crowded spaces, public transport and poorly ventilated spaces.
Hybrid working wherever possible.
Hands face, space works for COVID, flu and other winter viruses.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council