Leader of Solihull Council writes for the Observer.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking part in a discussion with local business leaders at the Chamber of Commerce’s Solihull Expo 2023.
‘Solihull Economic Update’ gave me the opportunity to bang the drum for our borough and our business community, something I will never tire of doing.
It’s true that Solihull’s economy faces challenges of local inequality and of course the same issues of supply and high prices being seen all over the world.
But here we can be proud of what we have achieved and what we do to make sure that we continue to punch above our weight.
We have the highest GDP per head in the West Midlands and we have seen growth that considerably outstrips the national average, but both the Council and businesses in Solihull won’t be caught resting on our laurels. Our new economic strategy will be published soon – it is designed to ensure that our economy continues to deliver growth, and that we do so in a way that benefits all our residents and safeguards our environment.
Over 30 local businesses and organisations exhibited at the Expo, including St Basils, Solihull College, and Hilton. Solihull for Success (the Council’s business support team) was also present to update and provide advice to local businesses attending. There were some excellent presentations during my seminar from the Airport, Touchwood and HS2.
Tackling climate change is at the heart of our agenda, as such we should be very proud of the achievements of our Highway Infrastructure team and their partners Balfour Beatty Living Places. In previous editions of this message, I’ve talked about the national Green Apple Awards they have won for their Wildlife Ways project, but on this occasion, I can report an even greater accolade. They’ve been awarded the Global Gold Winner trophy for carbon reduction, which recognises them as the best in category from around the world. It’s a wonderful thing for them to be recognised in this way, and an example to us all of the good that can be achieved by placing the environment squarely at the centre of what we do.
I mentioned earlier the need to address economic inequality. Providing opportunities to our young people is vital to achieving that, and WMP’s Princes Trust Programme is exactly the sort of opportunity that can make a difference. It’s a 12-week programme that develops employment, teamwork, and community skills in Chelmsley Wood. It starts on Monday 5 June for young people (16-25) who are not in employment, education, or training. The young people are provided with a bus pass and any benefits they are receiving aren’t affected, they will receive some level 1 qualifications at the end of the process. Referrals are now open, so if you or anyone you know would be suitable, then please contact [email protected].
I’d also like to commend our local police for the arrests made this week by the County Lines Taskforce. Nine arrests were made across Solihull and Birmingham on 23 May during a simultaneous operation across many addresses at dawn. Officers recovered large quantities of drugs, cash and mobile phones they suspect were used to run the lines. County Lines style drug operations are a blight on our communities, luring vulnerable young people towards potentially life-ruining decisions with their promises of quick cash. Drug crime doesn’t stand alone, wherever it goes, knife crime and property crimes tend to follow, so I’m pleased that the police were able to strike such a blow locally, and hope they continue to tackle this problem with such efficiency.
And finally, grants of up to £10,000 are now available to community-based organisations that are seeking to deliver activities to tackle health inequalities and the drivers of poor health in Solihull. As part of an initiative developed by partners in the Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care System and Solihull’s Health and Well-being Board, the Solihull Fairer Futures Fund has launched a small new grant scheme to boost investment in Solihull and improve outcomes for those most in need.
Applications should support at least one of our three local priorities: integrating services in the community, improving our approach to prevention and better support around mental health – from prevention through to crisis. For more information on how to apply for the grants, go to the Heart of England Community Foundation website.
I hope you all have a great long weekend,
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council