With the festive period upon us, as part of my last message for 2020, I wanted to pass on my best wishes to you all, and share my Christmas thoughts below. Despite all the restrictions we may be under, this is a special time of the year and I do hope you can make it so for yourselves, and those that are dear to you.
A word on the B topic. I recognise that with the Brexit deadline of 31 December, this is my last opportunity to reassure you that whatever the outcome of the current negotiations, the Council has taken every step it can to be as prepared as possible.
Despite COVID, our officers have been working through all the local and regional ramifications of Brexit, ensuring we have the plans in place ready for 1 January 2021. The many risks we were concerned about in 2019 have been dealt with or been overtaken by other events such as the pandemic. Others are beyond our control and currently part of the negotiations between UK Government and the EU.
There is one issue I would like to raise, which is the local take up of the EU Settlement Scheme. There is still a large proportion of Solihull residents with EU backgrounds who have not applied and there is now only six months before the cut-off date.
I urge those affected to apply with all haste in the coming weeks and months so they can continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. As a Council we will be increasing publicity on this in early 2021 to supplement that from the Government.
To close, I did not want to be preaching again about “taking care” in this message, but I have just looked at the numbers, and they are now rising (in some cases roaring) almost everywhere. Please take all the precautions we have spoken about, even more so in indoor places: hands, face, space: most importantly keeping your distance and masking up.
I have recorded my Christmas message and you can view it here or read it below.
Councillor Ian Courts
Leader, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
2020 has been a long, challenging year full of drama, tragedy and some amazing deeds.
A year that changed our lives in ways we could never have contemplated in 2019 and which even now as we approach 2021 still has surprises.
It seems a distant memory that a new government was formed at the end of 2019 and we went into the New Year preparing for Brexit.
Then we heard murmurings of a new disease from Wuhan, China.
It was only in late January that the seriousness of the newly christened COVID-19 was understood. Since then it has dominated our lives.
Together we have got through the year, sadly the UK has lost tens of thousands of people and in Solihull hundreds of residents have died because of COVID. The virus had a serious effect on the health of many others.
But without your support and help it could have been many more – I am humbled by the sacrifices everyone has made this year. Keeping family, friends and their community safe; communities coming together across the borough in the spirit of mutual support.
The Council’s officers have had to focus all of their efforts on COVID.
They’ve communicated, shared guidance, worked with businesses to support them; reached out to community groups and partners across the borough.
The team has tried to maintain the high quality of services wherever possible, but the pandemic meant some of our most valued services, such as libraries, the tip and our leisure centres had to close for a time.
I cannot thank our teams enough for their efforts.
From lockdown, to the summer relaxations, through the autumn lockdown and now the tiers; we have tried to lead the way for the borough through the minefield of regulation, providing whatever support we can, whenever possible.
We have changed the way we work, such as the switching to virtual meetings and spending much less time in the Council offices.
The lack of human contact has been hard for everyone, but the virus loves a crowd, and we have all had to follow the rules.
But at the start of December it feels like we have turned a corner, with the rollout of the first vaccine, and other viable vaccines in the pipeline. There will be difficulties in this, yet it must give us all hope.
With Christmas approaching, many of us can look forward to celebrating safely within our Christmas bubble. However, as many more Christmas celebrations will follow in the future, you may choose to have a very quiet or virtual one this year.
Please don’t forget that the virus is still circulating and does not take a break for Christmas! We must be really careful during this year’s festivities.
As our health chief has said, it really is not whether ‘I can, but whether I should’.
Keep well, keep positive and continue doing the right thing for Solihull.
As we approach Christmas, let me take a phrase from my Mayoral Year, can I wish you good Health, Happiness and Harmony for the festive period, but also Hope for a better 2021.