Message from Solihull’s Leader

Stay home, protect our NHS and save lives!
Keep up the applause for key workers
I understand many will be upset or anxious at the thought of the “Stay at home – Save lives” regime continuing, as it almost certainly will when the government makes its decision today. We are going through totally uncharted waters with this crisis. It really does require an extraordinary response from all of us.
On Thursday nights, I hope you are joining me and my wife Sheila, our neighbours and the rest of the country to recognise and celebrate our key workers through the national ‘clap for our carers’ campaign. This started out as a way for us all to recognise and celebrate the role of our NHS workers, but has rapidly become an important, very moving and unmissable weekly event.
This Thursday, the Courts’ household will be banging pans, not only to salute the amazing work of the NHS, but also to recognise the contribution of all key workers; a big thank you to our social care teams, both those who work for the Council, in our care homes and those supporting our local residents in their own homes; a thank you again to every single one of you that is helping us get through this crisis.
We all know how committed and compassionate these workers are and how, in very difficult circumstances, they continue to support local residents and provide care for those who need it most. So clap and bang at 8pm, let them hear us!
As well as expressions of gratitude, I know many of you are finding other ways to contribute to the fight against Covid-19. For instance, I heard this week that one local Rotary Club has donated funds to help a local small business provide PPE for the health workers.
With our fantastically vibrant local voluntary sector, we have jointly produced additional information on our website, to help people through the current period. Here 2 Help offers advice on a range of topics, such as shielding for really vulnerable people; help with food, including food bank deliveries; money advice; how to stay well; how to stay safe and how to volunteer safely.
There are lots of useful contact numbers for local people to use and share with family, friends and their local communities. Please do take a look and see if there is anything that can help you or your community get through the coming weeks.
And something to bring a little normality into parents’ lives is the annual ‘Schools Offer’ day for children starting infant or primary school in September. I am pleased that 89% of parents with children living in Solihull have been offered their first preference, and 98% have been offered one of their preference schools. This was from a total of 2,440 on time applications.
A huge thank you to everyone who has enabled this important process to continue during these challenging times. I am sure this will come as a welcome relief for parents and provide them and their children with a positive outlook for the next few months.
One real problem with this period of social isolation is the disturbing increase in domestic abuse. Here in the West Midlands a multi-agency campaign, #NoExcuseForAbuse, has been launched. Led by Police and victims’ services, it is about sharing information about the services available to victims of domestic abuse: support continues to be available to those who need it.
Calls concerning domestic abuse have fallen, raising concerns amongst professionals that there are many people suffering in silence. They don’t need to; this kind of abuse is never acceptable. Free, confidential advice and support for anyone experiencing domestic abuse is available, listed on our website. If you are in immediate risk you must call 999 and if you can’t speak, press 55 when prompted.
Finally I have mentioned before the proliferation of ‘Fake News’ during the Covid-19 crisis. The recent spate of attacks on 5G masts across the country is evidence of this dangerous phenomenon getting completely out of hand. Mobile phone networks are now absolutely critical to all of us, particularly at a time when we are asking everybody to stay home.
Some misguided individuals need to realise that their actions have real consequences. One of the masts targeted over the weekend provides telecommunication to the Nightingale hospital at the NEC in Solihull. It could result in families not being able to say a final goodbye to their loved ones; hard-working doctors, nurses, social care workers and police officers not being able to phone their kids, partners or parents for a comforting chat.

Please do use trusted sources such as Public Health England and GOV.UK or the Council’s own website where you can find a wealth of expert advice and guidance.
Best wishes – stay home and save lives
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 16 April 2020

15 April 2020:
Stay home, protect our NHS and save lives!

Now into our fourth week
Thank you everyone who followed the advice and stayed home this long bank holiday weekend. I understand it was quiet in terms of the number of people going outside to public spaces; from news reports, most people seemed to have followed the social distancing advice.
As we move into our fourth week, the talk in the media all seems to be about how long the lockdown needs to continue. Well, I’m as keen as anyone to get out and about again…but the experts say that we have not reached the peak yet, so it really is premature, and possibly even unhelpful, to speculate about returning to ‘normal’.
We need to continue, as we have done over the past weeks, in the knowledge that our efforts are demonstrably saving lives.
Can I just update on a few pieces of news.
Following discussions at a regional level and reviewing in particular the security situation, I am pleased to say that our bereavement services will now be allowing up to ten mourners, instead of six. This decision was not straightforward, but it was important to build in extra flexibility to recognise the heart-felt wish to attend a loved one’s funeral ceremony.
Those attending are welcome to film and make the funeral service available to those not able to attend (e.g. through Facebook Live and other media platforms), provided permission has been given by the person arranging the funeral and the officiant.
In other news, I just want to draw attention to the wonderful support Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has given to the fight against Covid-19. Not only have they started delivering 3D-printed visors, developed with the NHS for their frontline staff – with the ambition to produce 5,000 a week in the UK. They have also supplied an additional 150 vehicles globally to their humanitarian partners, of which 105 have been supplied to the British Red Cross, taking the total number of vehicles deployed to just over 300.
Also, 14 Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles are currently being used by West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust to test staff isolating with coronavirus symptoms. The testing allows the service to support staff with the virus, enabling those who are fit and healthy to return to frontline duties.

This is just one example of local help being given in this crisis.

Whilst JLR remains our biggest employer in the borough, the Council has also focused on other businesses that make up our economy. We have been actively contacting over 1,900 of our small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) to make sure they are accessing whatever relevant support is available.

So far we have received over 1,400 applications for the various grants available to eligible Solihull businesses, as part of the government’s support package. The money is now flowing out to businesses and we are working hard to process all of these payments as quickly as we can. We have also automatically applied Expanded Retail Relief to give eligible businesses 100% relief from their business rates in 2020/21, as a quick and effective way of supporting our local businesses through this pandemic.

Please, keep up social distancing – and stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.

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