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

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

The weekend saw more shops, pubs and restaurants open.  Our borough’s recovery will be dependent on everyone supporting their local businesses first, and foremost.  Now Solihull is open for business, shops, hairdressers, bars and restaurants have been welcoming customers back, but they want to see you too. Please, do think local and support local.

Face coverings continued to be a point of discussion over the weekend and now the Prime Minister has announced they will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets from 24 July.  As I’ve said in the past, my wife and I wear them, and have been doing so for some time, especially if we intend to go anywhere indoors.  The World Health Organization’s (WHO) advice says non-medical face coverings should be worn in public where social distancing is not possible.

If face coverings will help us all feel safer exploring our local centres, then I’m glad they will be made a mandatory requirement. I believe wearing a face covering is about thinking about and caring for others. It is less about me protecting myself and more about me trying to protect you.       

One good news story I’d like to share is that we have managed to get over 250 of the government laptops out to those children who have no access to computers at home.  Officers in Children’s Services identified the children and our ICT team managed to quickly prepare the laptops ready for handing over. 

On one day they passed on 162 computers.  We have already heard back from one young person who couldn’t believe she’d been given a computer, and said it was one of the only times in her life she had had something brand new, just for her. 

This story reinforces why it was so important to get computers to those young people; they deserve every support we can give them.  The outcome makes the bureaucracy and the frustrations we have had to deal with worthwhile; my personal thanks to our officers for making it happen so quickly.

It has also been great to hear reports on pupil numbers progressively increasing.  We’re probably seeing in excess of 7,000 pupils back in school.  Once term finishes, our schools can take stock, and teachers can have a well-deserved holiday.  It will then be a matter of putting in place the necessary measures, so Solihull schools can welcome back all pupils in September.

At Council last week, one of my colleagues raised the idea of creating a memorial woodland in recognition of this year’s pandemic.  I think there was broad support for the concept of a place for quiet reflection in the borough, so that people affected by the pandemic have somewhere in the coming years to go to think about this most difficult time.   We have suggested a site in South Shirley as a suitable home and I am pleased that already local people have responded favourably.  We will of course need to engage all those in the area in a consultation on this proposal.    

Finally I would like to highlight the great work of our Solihull GoodGym friends.  Now they are up and running again, they started off by hitting Brueton Park on Saturday morning with a litter pick.  You can read how they got on here.

As Rob Tonks, from GoodGym said: “We don't think we have ever found so much rubbish in the park before, so Saturday morning is clearly a prime time to go. It was great to be thanked by all the unofficial park runners and general users of the park.”

GoodGym is a community of runners, walkers and cyclists that combine getting fit with doing good within the local community.  If you want to join them, have a look here.

They have a variety of events coming up including a litter pick in Brueton Park on Saturday 25 July.

Please continue to be vigilant, especially if you are caring or coming into contact with those who may be vulnerable.  We need everyone’s support to keep the infection under control by doing the right things to stop the virus spreading – keep social distancing, hand washing and if you get ill - self-isolate and get a test!

Take care!

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 14 July 2020

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