At Full Council last night, I expressed my horror and condemnation at the news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and my support and sympathy for the people of the Ukraine. As someone who grew up during the nightmare of the Cold War, this is an awful reminder of just how fragile the peace is that we have enjoyed for so long.
At this moment, we are not sure of what the implications of all this will be, but it just demonstrates how vital it is that we protect our own democracy, economy and way of life.
The Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday was a significant milestone in our COVID journey as he explained all the legal restrictions around COVID will fall away. But, he also acknowledged, and my Director of Public Health agrees, COVID hasn’t gone away and we need to act responsibly in order to reduce the transmission of this virus. Please read the Director of Public Health’s message for the full story.
At full Council last night, we approved next year’s Council tax rate, taking effect from April. We have had to increase council tax by 1.99% in the general council tax level (£1,342.66 at Band D) with an additional 1.9% increase in the social care precept (£174.38 at Band D) making a total overall council tax increase of 3.89%. This is equivalent to £1,517.04 at Band D, which is an increase of £56.80 on last year (at Band D).
No one wants to increase all our outgoings, especially when so many are suffering cost pressures and hardship: however, we cannot bury our heads in the sand. Some of the increase will enable us to continue to invest in our Adult Social Care services and allow us to put additional resources into our safeguarding work within Children’s Services.
In setting the council tax, there is always a fine balance between the potential impact of a higher increase on council tax payers against the risk of the ability to maintain the services residents need and expect. I am confident that we have struck the right balance. Our council tax remains one of the lowest of all metropolitan councils and I can assure you we will continue to make every penny count and manage the Council’s finances, in a prudent and efficient manner.
I was glad to visit Kingshurst this week and see the start of the demolition of a number of tired, ‘eyesore’ buildings. This is an early phase of the plans for Kingshurst. It is good to see progress as we wait for the determination of the full planning application and carry on securing the funds to bring our ambitious plans to fruition.
Whilst this scheme will still take a few years to complete, I can reassure local residents and stakeholders that we will work with you to create a Kingshurst village centre fit for the future.
You must know we have committed to planting 250,000 trees in ten years through our Planting Our Future campaign which will help towards our goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions in the borough by 2041. I am delighted that we have now partnered with the National Trust teams at Baddesley Clinton and Packwood, which will take planting projects in and around Solihull borders onto National Trust properties.
The trees we plant will not only have an enormous benefit to the environment, improving biodiversity and carbon absorption, but they will enhance the beauty of these special locations and provide new habitats for wildlife in the area. You can see information by following this link.
Finally, I must mention Fairtrade Fortnight as you can still take part in the ‘Solihull Fairtrade Trail’ featuring over 20 pieces of handmade artwork including sculptures from Solihull schools on a theme of ‘Choose the World you Want’.
The artworks are displayed in 16 locations throughout the town centre and have created one of our biggest local Fairtrade awareness events to date. Please follow the trail, appreciate the artwork and expand your Fairtrade knowledge by completing the Fairtrade quiz, which is available to download from the Council website.
This year, the theme ‘Choose the World you Want’ shines a light on the communities overseas on the frontline of the climate crisis. The ongoing climate crisis remains the biggest threat to the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers and agricultural workers in low-income countries worldwide.
I want to congratulate the students on their efforts and on this campaign to raise awareness of this important issue. I hope to get along and see the artworks myself.
Also, no doubt many of you will be honing your pancake flipping skills next week on Shrove Tuesday. How about choosing to use Fair Trade ingredients for our pancake batter and the accompaniments? Take Care and enjoy your pancakes!
Let us hope and pray for peace in the coming weeks
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council