Councillor Ian Courts:

The Prime Minister’s media briefing on Monday announced a step change in our response to the #Coronavirus crisis and the #Government moved into what can be best described as “social distancing”, the next stage of the action plan to tackle the #COVID19 virus.

In response to the new advice, we have already put in place a number of changes as to how the Council will work over the next few days, weeks and months. I have agreed, with support from colleagues across the Council, to cancel all formal meetings until 16 April. We do not want to bring people together unnecessarily and we will have to communicate and make decisions electronically. Where necessary I have given the delegated power to our senior officers to make urgent decisions: in the coming weeks we might need an instant response to a situation arising.

The new requests from government are to ensure our most vulnerable are kept safe and well. The health experts have been honest in their view that the NHS cannot cope with a sudden spike in the number of seriously ill citizens. We must do all we can to reduce the number of people getting Covid-19. We are in uncharted territories with this crisis, but we must do what we can to avoid subjecting those at-risk, to even greater risk.

One consequence of the new guidelines is that in these circumstances our #CoreTheatre will have to close and I am afraid that all of the events we organise or support will have to be cancelled. In addition, our two leisure centres will also close their doors. We are looking at all of our public facing buildings, but do recognise that life must go on. More than ever, people will continue to want books to read and need to seek advice at our #CommunityHubs. For the moment, therefore, we have made the decision that our libraries will remain open.

However, I have to be honest that it is extremely hard to make predictions as to what we might have to do in the coming weeks. What I will say is that, for now, this is the new ‘normal’, but that it is likely to change. Above all, do please keep following the expert advice from the NHS and PublicHealth https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

The Council will continue to do all in its power to look out for the safety and well-being of everyone in Solihull. It may be no surprise that some of our own officers fall into the ‘at-risk’ categories and this will present us with many challenges. My officers are meeting daily to maintain the services you expect. However, do please bear in mind that at some point we are likely to need to prioritise our efforts and focus on those with the most need.

Last week, I mentioned that Solihull is blessed to have strong and active communities right across the borough. Now, more than ever, we need these communities to come together and look out for our most vulnerable. I know that people in our communities are desperate to get involved and we want to encourage this neighbourliness; we will let you know more about this as soon as possible. For example, this will include what you can do to help yourself; how you may ask for help; how you can help each other; also, if you are fit and well, and want to volunteer, how you can do that. I want this to be available in the next 24 hours and we’ll be contacting as many community groups and community leaders as possible with this advice.

This is a terrible time, not one I have known in my lifetime; but I do think we all have the opportunity to make a difference, show compassion and help our fellow citizens get through the coming weeks and months.

Thank you for your time.

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council