Plenty to be optimistic about in Solihull in 2022 - Council Leader - The Solihull Observer

Plenty to be optimistic about in Solihull in 2022 - Council Leader

Solihull Editorial 31st Dec, 2021   0

“I THINK Solihull has good reason to be optimistic for 2022” – that’s the message from Council Leader Ian Courts, as the old year draws to a close.

“We have great shopping centres, we’re a great borough to live in and raise our families and be proud off, and I want to keep it that way.”

However he is quick to admit there are challenges ahead too.

“From a council point of view I do have a vision and a plan of what we are trying to do and that starts with a strong administration and being financially stable,” said Coun Courts.

And in the wake of the murder of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes he cites adult social care and childrens services as priorities and key areas for investment.

“We need a stable economy and that is fed by action we take to strengthen it,” he said.

“We are starting to invite interest in our town centres, for instance in Mell Square we are looking to potential partners.

“It will be quite a long process though, we are looking for ideas, for instance, more housing, more independents, changing the feel of it.

“We also are starting to do more work in Chelmsley Wood, and work will continue in Shirley and Castle Bromwich.

“We have a lot of great centres and this front line has always been important to me.”

He also ranks climate change and the environment high on his priorities (at the West Midlands Combined Authority he is portfolio lead for environment, energy & HS2) and says he has a ‘cunning plan’ to plant more trees.

“The question is, how best can we contribute to a better world?” he said.

“Long after Covid is gone we will still have climate change.”

“For instance we can all waste less – what is it . . . this Christmas some two million turkeys, 74m mince pies, 100m brussels sprouts all gone to waste.

“And if there’s one thing I would like to see its people not leaving their car engines running outside schools!”

Meanwhile the planning inspector will resume his examination of Solihull’s Local Plan in the new year and Coun Courts acknowledges the plan hasn’t met with universal approval.

“What we are trying to do is create a balance. The Local Plan process is important, but it’s a very different matter when it comes to the planning application phase,” he said.

“I’m very sympathetic and I’ve objected to planning application myself, but new development has funded community schemes and we also have to find homes for our people.

“We want a better planning framework, better housing choices, better green spaces leading to developments we can all be proud of.”

He also points out the new UK Central / NEC / HS2 complex will take about half the housing proposed.

2022 will also see the borough fighting for its share of the billions received by the West Midlands Combined Authority to improve transport links in the area.

And it’s difficult to escape the pressure on finances.

“We will continue to promote Solihull as a place to invest, but finance is an issue, inflation is a problem and we have a responsibility to manage our finances prudently,” said Coun Courts.

“But I think we look for solutions rather than problems and the year ahead we have the Commonwealth Games and the Queen’s platinum jubilee. There is a lot to be optimistic about.”

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