Message from Councillor Ian Courts – Friday 9 February 2024


This week we all heard the sad news that King Charles has been diagnosed with cancer. I want to give my best wishes for a speedy recovery and I would also like to commend him for sharing some elements of his diagnosis publicly. Whilst he is of course a public figure, indeed there is no figure more public than the King, I believe he should be entitled to privacy if he so wished. By making the news public, he will have sparked millions of conversations, some of which may just (hopefully) lead to people going to get checked.

I don’t claim to have quite the same public profile, but when I was Mayor of Solihull in 2010 and diagnosed with prostate cancer, I chose to share news of my own cancer diagnosis with the public for just that reason. I was conscious that many men in particular don’t talk about their health with their friends and family and shy away from doctors. The only thing I can say is do have those conversations, do go to your check-ups, and make an appointment if you have any concerns. When caught early, treatment can have very successful results and I sincerely hope it does for His Majesty.

I’ve been musing about Artificial intelligence (AI) recently. It stands poised to reshape our world across numerous domains. Its transformative potential is evident in healthcare, finance, transportation, and entertainment. By swiftly analyzing vast data troves, AI enhances decision-making, optimizing resource allocation and problem-solving. However, this rapid advancement also poses risks. In healthcare, reliance on AI diagnostics might lead to errors or biases, impacting patient care. Autonomous vehicles raise concerns about safety and job displacement. Additionally, AI-driven automation could exacerbate inequality by displacing certain job sectors. Nonetheless, navigating these risks while harnessing AI's capabilities offers unprecedented opportunities for innovation and progress.

If you noticed a change in style in the last paragraph, it’s because up until the last full stop it was written by ChatGPT, an AI system. I asked it to summarise how AI will change the world in 100 words and it was unrelentingly positive. It was only when I insisted it include reference to the risks posed that it allowed some caveats. I’m neither wildly enthusiastic about the potential nor particularly concerned about a future under the boot of our robot overloads. At least not until it learns to spell ‘analysing’ correctly. The government has announced a £100m package to try to ensure that AI leads us down the path of advancement for all, rather than the bit it had to be forced to mention.

Earlier this week we launched our consultation on the future of a key section of the A452 Chester Road. This isn’t just an exhortation for you to tell us what you think, it’s a rare occasion when no encouragement is needed for people to engage with one of our consultations. Since we launched, we’ve had hundreds of responses and our post about it on the Council’s Facebook page garnered hundreds of comments and thousands of interactions in total. It’s fair to say that many of the comments weren’t entirely complementary about the Council and previous work done on that road, but that’s not a bad thing, I hope all those that commented on our social media post took the time to fill out the consultation, so we can formally consider their comments. People are entitled to their opinions and to share them with us in a civil fashion. We don’t just do consultations to tick the legal box before we can go ahead with a project, we really do want to hear from residents about what their priorities are and what they want to see where they live.

On Wednesday I was one of over 1,000 attendees at the Solihull Apprenticeship Show at North Solihull Sports Centre. As much of my message last week was on the subject of youth unemployment, It was great to see so many people there wanting to find out more about the wide variety of apprenticeships on offer, from all the local and national employers present.

Finally, Lunar New Year will begin tomorrow,  10 February, this year. Touchwood Solihull will be hosting a range of activities that day for everyone to celebrate this festival. This includes Lion Dance, Dragon Dance, and dragon puppet making as it will be the Year of Dragon. My particular congratulations to all those from Hong Kong who have now chosen to make Solihull their home, you’re very welcome here and may you enjoy the celebrations. I’ve enlisted the aid of one such person who now works here at Solihull Council to help with this bit – For those that celebrate this festival, 祝大家新春大吉!

Thanks, and have a good weekend.

Councillor Ian Courts.