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


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

Yesterday, to coincide with Carers’ Rights Day, we launched a new Carers’ Strategy to support the borough’s estimated 28,000 adult and young carers. People who provide unpaid care for a family member or friend in Solihull play a huge role in our community.  The new strategy is a really good example of local partnership working, showing our collective commitment to supporting carers and delivering a set of practical actions.  It’s also the first strategy to be approved by our Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board, who are now responsible for developing a plan to meet the health needs of people in Birmingham and Solihull. You can read more about it and find a link to the strategy here.

We’ll also be working with local partners to promote the global 16 days campaign, which begins today with International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls. The campaign seeks to raise awareness of the evils of domestic violence, FGM, honour-based abuse, and all forms of violence against women. The global theme this year is ‘end violence against women now!’ Look out for more information across the council’s social media channels between now and 10 December.

Yesterday I was pleased to meet with The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt MP, at Solihull Hospital to push the importance of the hospital and welcome the great work being done by the staff there, as well as welcome the new investment in the Minor Injuries Unit and elective surgery theatres. The Chancellor spent a lot of time listening to nursing and hospital staff, their issues and what we were doing in the midlands. I was very impressed with his attentiveness and thoughtful and informed questions.

 Later we visited the HS2 site with the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street. We discussed the work we are doing to maximise the benefit for Solihull and the region by creating new jobs and business opportunities around the HS2 development. The great work being done by Solihull was clearly recognised by both the Mayor and The Chancellor.

In my last message, I mentioned some Solihull BID awards successes for the Council and promised more details this week. I’m delighted to offer my congratulations to Kevin Hill, who has worked as a street cleansing operative for the council or our contractors for 36 years. His dedicated service deservedly earned him the award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Town Centre’.

 I’d also like to congratulate Alison McGrory, Louise Baggott and everyone in their Solihull Council Commonwealth Games Delivery Team, who won the prize for Outstanding Team of 2022. Those days may seem distant now, but I just remember myself the enormous effort that went into ensuring that the games themselves, the Queen’s Baton Relay, the Town Centre Festival Sites and every other aspect of the games ran smoothly and spectacularly within Solihull. I was glad this was recognised by the judges. I was there on Friday and can attest how much the team enjoyed their well-earned celebration! 

As we’re on the theme of award-winning council teams this week, I’d like to take this opportunity to say well done to our ‘Planting the Future’ and Wildlife Ways teams on their Green Apple Awards.

Wildlife Ways is a council commissioned programme to make the borough greener by opening up and improving existing paths and cycle routes whilst allowing wildlife to thrive. The team were awarded the Green Champion Award for Carbon Reduction in recognition of the excellent work done by the team and their partners at Balfour Beatty to improve 69km of existing paths and cycle routes and create 23km of new footways.

Planting our Future focus on re-wilding, re-connecting and re-imagining tree planting across the borough with community engagement, education and raising environmental awareness at its core. They were given a Green Apple Award for their work in this sector.

Over the last two years, with support from over 400 volunteers, they have planted approximately 51,000 trees and are on target to plant another 25,000 this planting season. Solihull is also home to the first Commonwealth Legacy Forest, which was delivered in partnership with Severn Trent and saw over 9,400 trees being planted to create a new woodland, based at Hope Coppice in Shirley.

Our commitment to the environment is at the heart of our work at the council, and I’m pleased to say we have plenty of activity planned for National Tree Week. Running from 26 November through to 4 December, it is the UK’s largest annual tree celebration, marking the start of tree planting season which continues until March.

The Planting Our Future team will be working on several projects during National Tree Week and throughout the season. They have partnered with local businesses who have come forward to sponsor urban tree planting in the borough. Here’s a round up of all the planting activity the team will undertake next week and throughout the season -

•             The team will be planting the first of 9 trees sponsored by 608 Vets to celebrate their 90th year and planting the first of 15 trees sponsored by Esther Broomhall & Partners.

•             For this season they are partnering with Birmingham Dogs Homes & Watertight Flood Resilience to plant 3,000 trees in the grounds of the Dogs Home.

•             The week marks the start of a 3-year partnership with Blythe Valley Business Park, which will see 3,000 trees planted in Blythe Valley Park this year.

•             Hedgerow planting at West Midlands Police Dog Unit with the Solihull Police Cadets.

Protecting and enhancing our local environment is one way we can ensure a bright future for young people in Solihull, but it’s equally important we ensure there are good jobs and routes into employment for them too. That’s why I warmly welcome the new WMCA apprenticeship scheme.

The ground-breaking training course has been launched to prepare young people for the world of work and help them land apprenticeships that pay at least the real living wage.

Path 2 Apprenticeship, which is being backed by £200,000 from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), aims to unlock the potential of young people, especially those not in education, employment or training (NEET).

The course, which is the result of a partnership between the WMCA and professional services company Accenture, seeks to tackle the region’s skills shortage and increase the number of apprentices being taken on by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across the region.

It will also complement the success that the WMCA has had with its near £40m apprentice levy transfer fund which has supported more than 1,000 SMEs and nearly 3,000 apprentices. You can read more about it here.

Have a good weekend,

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council