Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council Wednesday 8 May 2024


Hello again. I ended my last message by saying I would hopefully be writing again in May. Here I am, following elections that saw a rather different set of results in Solihull than they did nearly everywhere else in the country. I’m grateful, of course, to the voters of Solihull who have once again placed their faith in my party to lead the Council here as we continue our mission to deliver high quality and good value services to our residents. For me it was a humbling moment. I’m also grateful to the returning officer, Paul Johnson, and to the Council’s Democratic Services team and all the staff who contributed to what was a very smooth process. I’m really proud of the way we conduct these things here in Solihull.

It was a bittersweet weekend for me. I was of course delighted with the results we saw in the Council elections, counted and announced on Friday, but on Saturday I was devastated to see Andy Street narrowly fail to be re-elected as West Midlands Mayor. I don’t get political in these messages but, given the praise lavished on him by the incoming Mayor Richard Parker during his victory speech, I don’t think it’s out of place to say that Andy has been a powerful voice for our region and a real friend to Solihull.

He has worked incredibly hard to build up the Combined Authority from its inception to what it is now. I am very grateful for that work and for all he has done for our region – delivering the Commonwealth Games under budget and securing the remaining funds to be spent right here, pushing strong economic growth and jobs and providing a strong environmental voice on a national as well as local scale. Andy still has an enormous amount to offer as a leader and in public service, and I hope we see him do just that in some capacity. He’s a true gentleman, and I wish him nothing but the best with whatever he chooses to do next.

I’ve already mentioned new West Midlands Mayor’s speech but combined with Andy Street’s grace in defeat they made for compelling viewing. Two political rivals who spoke highly of each other, of the campaigns they had run. The new mayor thanking the old for the work he had done, and the outgoing man wishing “all strength and wisdom” to his successor as he takes up the baton. I’ve spoken at length in past editions of this message about civility, in all things as well as in politics, but this was civility in action and a welcome sight. After all, we all want what is best for our region.

As a Council, we will be renewing our focus on our key priority – the improvement of our Children’s Services department, which I will continue to support in any way I can. I will also be bringing a new cabinet focus to Skills, Employment, and Inclusion. Good quality jobs and training are vital as we seek to tackle the inequality we know exists in our borough, we want everyone to be able to access work and education so that all of our citizens can be part of our economic success story. I look forward to the discussions I’ll be having shortly with the new Mayor as we seek to ensure continued support from WMCA to deliver our ambitions.

I will also be looking to strengthen the position of Health services in the borough through our own work and that we do in conjunction with our colleagues in the NHS and other partners. You can expect to see these key areas mentioned pretty regularly in this message throughout the year.

I am very pleased to say I will be putting Councillor Shahin Ashraf MBE forward to be the next Mayor of Solihull at our full council meeting next week. Councillor Ashraf is a dedicated ward councillor and has a very strong record of advocacy through her work for a global charity. She’s a very deserving candidate and I have no doubts whatsoever that she will be a wonderful advocate and representative of Solihull as Mayor. Councillor Ashraf is of course a Green councillor but I’m pleased that we’ve been able to work together across parties to make this happen, which of course is what should be done.  

We will also be changing the way we appoint the Mayor of Solihull from this occasion onwards. Previously the Mayor one year becomes Deputy Mayor the next, but we’re bringing our system into line with nearly everywhere else by appointing a Mayor and a Deputy together, with the Deputy then taking the mayoral role the following year. Councillor Annette Mackenzie will be nominated as Deputy Mayor this year and will then be Mayor next year. They will make a formidable team and I look forward to seeing what they achieve in their new roles.

Another personally disappointing result after a remarkably close contest followed on Sunday as Solihull Moors were agonisingly defeated on penalties in their promotion final at Wembley. In the spirit of conciliation and civility I’d like to congratulate Bromley on their success and wish them well in the football league next year, but I can’t say it wasn’t desperately difficult to see the Moors come so close and not get over the line. They’ll be back at Wembley on Saturday for the FA Trophy final, and I wish them the very best. Here’s hoping for a better outcome from their second trip to the national stadium in 6 days. We’re immensely proud of Solihull Moors as they represent our town and our borough on a national sporting stage once again and bringing the trophy back to Damson Park would be just reward for a fine season.

Thanks for reading,  

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council.