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

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

Following the weekend relaxations, at least three pubs have had to close and all customers contacted, as some of their weekend customers informed them that they had subsequently received positive Covid-19 tests.  So our new ‘freedoms’ do come with risks. 

In Solihull we are working with our Police colleagues to monitor the situation, especially as we are expecting even more pubs and restaurants to open this week and over the coming weekend.  In these circumstances, I know we will not hesitate to intervene if businesses are not operating in a Covid-safe manner and ensuring customers are being served in a safe environment.    

Lockdown has tested us all and has affected all parts of the economy.  We have managed to weather the initial storm, but it has battered our economy and society as a whole. If we want the recovery to succeed we cannot allow the storm to return. This means continuing to do all the right things – social distancing, hand washing, using face coverings when inside buildings or on public transport and minimising social interaction, wherever possible. The seriousness of the situation cannot be underestimated.

Tackling youth unemployment has been an issue I have championed for many years. I have tried to focus our efforts on getting young people into work or apprenticeships, particularly those young people in North Solihull where youth unemployment was more prevalent. The figures are still too high, and we have much more to do, but we were doing better than the national and regional picture.

Now we can see them, the figures make it crystal clear - young people have been disproportionately affected by the economic fallout of the Covid-19 lockdown. Also, as the successful furlough scheme unwinds, there is an expectation of more redundancies and an increase in unemployment.

So it was heartening to hear the Chancellor yesterday unveil a series of measures to support the economy, but most importantly to help people keep their jobs and help young people into employment.

The new jobs retention bonus should help businesses keep workers on through the coming months of recovery;  the ‘Kick-Start Scheme’ will subsidise six-month work placements for people on Universal Credit aged between 16 and 24, who are most at risk of long-term unemployment. 

He also pledged to provide 30,000 new traineeships to get young people into work; traineeships providing classroom-based lessons in maths, English and CV writing, as well as up to 90 hours of unpaid work experience.  Employers will get £1,000 for every young person they offer a work experience place to.  This is alongside incentives encouraging companies to hire apprentices as well.

This is all welcome, and at a local level, we will do all we can to support our young people.  We cannot have another generation scarred by unemployment.

The other announcements were no less welcome.  The Green Homes Grant will support homeowners and landlords in making their homes more energy efficient and help create local jobs.  This is part of a green recovery to meet the climate change challenge, and we will explore the opportunity to see if Solihull’s public buildings can benefit from further energy efficiency measures.

I’m sure we were all pleased to see the offer of a half priced meal (Monday – Wednesday) during August.  Our centres’ pubs and restaurants will hopefully be able to make the most of this “eat out to help out” initiative and it will be a boost to our local hospitality industry.

And as the government continues to relax restrictions, we have been able to review the number of people attending funerals. From Monday 13 July we feel that we can safely accommodate up to 30 mourners for burials and up to 20 mourners at cremations in the chapels at Woodlands and Robin Hood. More information on this is available here.

I am sure that by working together, we can build a path out of lockdown that doesn’t allow Covid-19 to spread.  As we go for the occasional pint or meal, and even a haircut, we must remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions, follow the public health guidance and carry on with the daily actions that we all know stop the spread of the virus. 

Take care!

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 9 July 2020

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