24 March 2022 – Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council


The news from Ukraine continues to shock and it is incredible that despite the artillery bombardments, the loss of life, the food shortages and lack of warmth and shelter, the people across Ukraine continue to defend their country. What incredible bravery.

We have started to see refugees from Ukraine arriving at Birmingham Airport and our resilience team has been on site to provide practical support to those who need it. At the moment the number of people coming through has been very low, but we anticipate this could change if the situation in Ukraine worsens.

We are prepared to increase our presence at the airport if required and I know that there are individuals and groups across the borough ready and willing to do whatever is required to welcome refugees to Solihull.  As we better understand what they require and how best we can help them, we will of course look to the wider community to help us give the care and support that is needed.

When this moment comes we will have to remember many will be traumatised and worried about their families either in Ukraine or displaced elsewhere.  Alongside the practical issue of shelter and food we will have to show incredible compassion and find a way to give them hope in this awful situation.    

If you want to support Ukraine now, have a look at the information and links here.

Last week I mentioned the threat of industrial action by the GMB.  My understanding is that Amey and the union are continuing their negotiations. However, whatever the outcome of these negotiations, our environmental services team is preparing contingency plans to minimise any possible disruption to services to residents. 

We will know more on Monday and will keep you informed via social media and through the Council’s website

In other local news it was good to see the Change into Action campaign take another step forward in Solihull with the introduction of contactless payment points in Solihull town centre.

Change into Action Solihull is an alternative giving scheme that was launched in September 2019 as part of a regional campaign. It aims to provide additional support to homeless people in danger of sleeping rough and so far over £63k has been raised.

Donations are used to fund service improvements, new initiatives or provide additional support for individuals in difficulty.  While the number of people sleeping rough in Solihull is consistently low, this initiative pays for support to those who need help to get back on their feet and have a more secure future.

People can be confident that by donating through Change into Action their money is supporting people in need of help to make lasting changes.

With thoughts about caring for those who need it on our minds, it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday and I’d like to thank all our wonderful foster mums for everything they are doing to make a positive contribution to the lives of Solihull’s children and young people.

Our foster carers open their hearts and their homes to those in need and deserve a great deal of appreciation and respect for their vital role.

If you want to do something amazing and feel you could make a positive difference to a child’s life, the fostering team would love to talk to you.  Please call 0121 788 4253 to find out more or visit www.solihull.gov.uk/fostering

Next week is World Autism Acceptance Week, 28 March – 3 April 2022.  Our leisure centre partner, Everyone Active, is shining a light on people who live with autism and sharing their inspirational stories.

Lucy Hall is one of Everyone Active’s Shining Stars – and has won a month’s free membership at North Solihull Sports Centre after sharing her journey. Lucy lives with autism and has battled with mental health issues, alongside an eating disorder, for many years.  Lucy has worked hard and with the support of leisure centre staff and the NHS, is now living a much healthier life.  You can read about Lucy’s journey here.

I must again mention the latest milestone for our Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) project. The zero emissions self-driving shuttle is being used to transport passengers around a longer and much more complex route at Birmingham Airport, while again interacting with other road users.

This will provide further knowledge and experience of self-driving vehicles in a real-world environment, providing the evidence to support the technology being rolled out in the future across Solihull.

This trial route will provide airport staff with a new temporary service linking the Departures entrance and Diamond House to Car Park 5. If you want to find out what it is all about these trials are also open to members of the public so you can experience one of the first fully self-driving shuttles in the UK. Visitors to the airport can book their ride by going to www.solihull.gov.uk/cavtrials.

I am convinced CAV technology has the potential to revolutionise the way we get around our towns, cities and rural areas as well as how we transport goods. This project is all about looking to the future and how we might incorporate autonomous vehicles in transport infrastructure in the coming years.

As we begin to welcome and care for the victims of Ukraine we must remember our freedoms depend on supporting an open and democratic society.  We have to respect the institutions and ideas that guarantee our way of life - democracy, the rule of law and a tolerant society. 

Free and fair elections are fundamental to our democracy, so please exercise your right to a vote in the local elections in May.

As we enter the pre-election period, which runs from 25 March until election day on 5 May, I cannot continue to publish these messages as election law does not allow the Council to provide publicity for councillors or candidates during this period. 

I hope in the coming weeks and months there will be an equitable end to the war in Ukraine, although I wonder what that will look like. It is important that Russia continues to feel the full force of sanctions and isolation imposed for its disregard for international norms and its unwarranted violence against a peaceful and democratic nation.  

In the meantime, let us support Ukraine and its people in whatever way we can.

Finally, take care and live in hope.

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council