8 September 2023 - Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council


We all know the national news this week has been dominated by fallout from the issues with RAAC in schools and other public buildings, and the financial troubles facing our colleagues and neighbours in Birmingham. Understandably, I have been asked a lot of questions about these matters and what impact they will have on the people of Solihull. Starting with RAAC, I am going to use this message to address some of the issues that have been raised.

Updated guidance for the presence of RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) in school buildings was issued by the Department for Education last week. As it happens, before this guidance was issued, we had assessed all our Council buildings and maintained Schools in the borough and had found no sites that required any action. Information was also provided to academies to allow them to make appropriate investigations.

In July this year, The Core Theatre was routinely inspected.  This inspection identified that the building contained RAAC. Since the inspection, we have been working in line with the most up to date guidance from the Institute of Structural Engineers to assess its condition.

Because of the new guidance we have had to temporarily close the theatre as a precaution. The presence of RAAC is only in the theatre auditorium itself - the rest of The Core building is not affected and is open as usual. Ticket holders for shows at the Theatre this week and next week are being contacted.

It’s a huge shame that this had to happen, I especially feel for the performers who have had their shows cancelled - I know just how much work they put in to preparing for these, and the audiences who will miss out on what would have been a great evening, but there’s nothing else that can be done to ensure everyone’s safety. We have a key inspection at the end of this month and we’ll provide a further update at that point.

At all times, we’ve followed the latest guidance and acted as quickly as we can. I’m sure this doesn’t lessen the disappointment for some, but I hope most people can understand that we had no choice. Safety must come first.

Birmingham City Council (BCC) issued a Section 114 notice this week, which “confirms that the Council has insufficient resources to meet the equal pay expenditure and currently does not have any other means of meeting this liability.” To be clear, I will not be discussing the circumstances leading up to that notice or what it means for the people of Birmingham here or anywhere else, that’s not for me to talk about.

I lead Solihull Council, and so Solihull and its residents are my primary concern. It’s true that there are some areas where we procure services along with BCC, and they are our colleagues in many regional projects. We’ll be looking at where we work together to ensure that there will be no knock-on impacts for the people of Solihull, but we’re confident that existing contracts will not be affected.

Times are tough for our people, for businesses, and for Local Authorities, but we’re on a sound financial footing at Solihull Council. I say that not to contrast us with our neighbours or make any comment about them, only to reassure our residents and businesses that we will continue to provide the best possible service to them.

The impact of the Cost of Living crisis on our residents and everyone around the country cannot be ignored. Fuelled by inflation rooted in the aftermath of Covid and the fallout of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, many are feeling squeezed by rising prices. I want to remind everyone of the support that is available through the Council’s Here2Help pages. There’s help with food, budgeting, fuel, finding work, and many other things contained within one convenient resource. If you or someone you know is struggling, please take a look and see what support might be available.

Thank you, and have a good weekend. Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts,

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council.