Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council

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

It was heartening to find out that these messages are actually being read widely.  As ever, you should always be careful what you wish for, as the last 48 hours has demonstrated.

So far I have been on Sky News, national BBC News, PM on BBC Radio 4, Channel 4 News, BBC Midlands Today, Paul Franks show on BBC Radio WM and BBC 5 Live – just because of my acknowledgement that not all of our schools in Solihull will be open to more pupils on 1 June. Is someone trying to make a story out of all this?

I have had to make clear, every time, that we are totally committed to getting education going again, in accordance with government guidelines; however, we are working on the basis of collaboration with our partners, carrying out full risk assessments, creating the confidence that we need for parents to send their children back to education, putting the interests of pupils and staff first.

As I have explained, we are following advice and guidance, talking to head teachers and unions – we all want to see more of our children back in school.  But this has to be done taking account of the different circumstances and needs of individual schools.  This is why the dates that schools in Solihull open their doors to more children may differ, depending on the outcome of each school’s safety and risk assessments.

Schools will contact parents to let them know the arrangements in their child’s or children’s school.  So parents in Solihull should wait to be contacted by their child’s or children’s school.

Throughout all of this our primary concern has been the safety of our children and staff.  1 June is the earliest date some of our schools will begin to welcome more pupils, others will follow on, as and when they are ready.

So can I talk about Community Infrastucture Levy (CIL)? CIL is a levy on certain new developments, a part of which is specifically allocated to benefit local communities. I would like to mention that nearly £360,000 of capital funding is available for community projects in eight of our wards.  Where there are Parish or town Councils, funds are distributed directly to them.

I hope community groups in Dorridge and Hockley Heath, Knowle, Olton, Shirley East, Shirley South, Shirley West, Silhill and St Alphege wards will start thinking about the future and what improvements they would like to see in their wards: there’s more information on the Council website here.

We will be opening our cemeteries this Bank Holiday Monday (Widney Manor – 10am – 6pm and Robin Hood & Woodlands 3pm – 6pm) albeit on reduced hours. I know many people will welcome the extra opportunity to visit the graves of their loved ones, details are here. Please continue to observe the social distancing guidance.

I would also like to highlight our staff who are doing a great job looking after our Shielded population – that’s the group that are extremely vulnerable and can’t go out at all. Our team is currently supporting around 7,300 people in Solihull, ensuring they get fortnightly government food parcels and additional fresh food top-ups sourced locally.

They have also provided nearly 300 emergency food parcels to tide people over until they’re on the system, and are regularly checking on people’s wellbeing, making sure they have their medicines and the like.

We’ve had lots of positive feedback from people, and I would just myself like to say a big personal thank you too.

Many more people outside of the Shielded group also need help with food. I am pleased to report that we’re offering support and advice to them too. Some people need emergency food parcels, while others just need to know who can deliver food, if they can pay but can’t get out.

For information about local foodbanks and local suppliers that deliver follow this link.

With another Bank Holiday upon us, I must remind everyone that we are still in the grip of a pandemic.  The reason we are seeing a gradual relaxation of lockdown is because we are staying at home, we are washing our hands and we are observing social distancing when we are out – we are controlling the virus and saving lives.

Watching the news last night, it was great to see the steps that some companies and organisations are taking, to get work started again, implementing new social distancing methods. This sort of thing is likely to become the new norm as we try and move forward in our Recovery mode.

However, it was also very sad to hear the news about Rolls Royce.  It’s too early to know what it means for those working at the Birmingham Business Park, but we will speak to the company and offer whatever support we can.

Please, if you leave the house continue to abide by the minimum 2m physical distancing rules and help keep everyone safe.

To all our key workers who are working over the Bank Holiday I send my best wishes and heartfelt thanks.  For those able to take time to relax, I hope you all have a lovely long weekend and recharge your batteries. Take care. Good health, happiness and harmony for you all.

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 21 May 2020