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7 July - Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council

Stay alert, control the virus, save lives – and keep social distancing

A recent government announcement that I welcome is the new systematic testing regime for our care homes. From Monday onwards, there will be weekly testing of staff, while residents will be tested every 28 days.  This will also apply to agency and visiting staff, such as social workers and Allied Health Professionals.

This approach is based on advice from SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies).  It is a significant milestone that we are now rolling out retesting, and it will help to prevent and control outbreaks in care homes. This new regime balances the need for regular testing of staff, who could be more exposed to the virus, with the fact that regular testing can be difficult and distressing for some residents.  It is another way we can continue to reduce the spread of the virus.

Initially, care homes for the over 65s and those with dementia will be prioritised, as these were the homes which were first to receive whole home testing.  The regime will then be expanded to the remaining adult care homes from early August.

Due to further customer requests, we are organising more opportunities for residents to drop their books back to some of ours libraries.  So, from 10am-1pm on Wednesday 15 July, you will be able to return your books at the following libraries: Balsall Common, Castle Bromwich, Hobs Moat and Knowle.  It will only be an opportunity to drop books off.

Similarly, due to demand we are announcing new return only time-slots at The Core, Chelmsley Wood and Shirley Libraries.  On Friday 24 July between 2-4pm, and every following Friday afternoon, you can drop off your returns.  Again, this is just a drop off service and our library staff will not be available to help with any other services. The full information is here.

I had the pleasure last week of speaking to a large number of our council staff via a virtual briefing session.  We are still focused on dealing with the reality of Covid-19, but are doing all we can to engineer a borough-wide recovery;  we also want to offer re-assurance that we have already begun to think through what our priorities must be post-Covid-19.

This crisis has pushed us to new ways of working and thinking. We need to amplify those ideas and working practices that have been beneficial, and let go of things that are no longer fit for purpose any more. In all likelihood, we will see many more virtual meetings continue and a good number of officers working from home more often than not.  

Any borough-wide or regional recovery must also continue to face up to meet the climate change challenge, which has not gone away.   Ideas like the recently proposed plan to retrofit 50,000 homes across the West Midlands is one way to help people keep warm and reduce their bills. This ambitious plan put forward by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is based on the knowledge that we have too many old homes in the region that are poorly insulated, leading to high energy bills.

Making houses more energy efficient will not only help households out of fuel poverty, but will be a step towards the goal of a carbon neutral West Midlands by 2041.

Given the shock to the system caused by Covid-19 and the continuing public health concerns, it may be a long haul back to what we might recognise as ‘normality’. 

But Solihull is well placed to recover.  We have a strong economy, we have the skills and we are a place that people want to invest in, live and work.  This hasn’t changed, nor will it.  Our challenge is to harness our assets and create a sustainable and inclusive recovery that benefits all and that puts tackling climate change at its centre. 

Finally, ‘Super Saturday’ came and went, and in the main people were responsible, abided by the social distancing rules and hopefully enjoyed themselves.  I am sure in the coming weeks more and more of our bars and restaurants will re-open and help our town centres recover in a Covid-safe way. We need Solihull to open up for business again, let’s do it safely and please… 

Take care!

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 7 July 2020

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