How are you going to celebrate VE Day?
I am sorry that we cannot all come together to celebrate Victory in Europe day on Friday. As it was during the war, so it is now. We all have a role to play, under our current lockdown. I know that we still need to stay home to protect lives, but we can look for ways to mark this special national day- online and within our own households.
With that in mind, can I suggest some ideas to help you get involved.
There’s the Core Library and Courtyard Gallery virtual exhibition; Solihull BID’s amazing Piece for Peace project (https://solihullbid.co.uk/pieceforpeace/); you can also share stories about your family’s connection to WW2, by posting photos and stories on social media using #VEDay75. Lastly, why not catch up with Dan Snow’s creative challenge for children (https://ve-vjday75.gov.uk/dan-snows-ve-day-challenge/)?
As the Government begins outlining how we could emerge from the lockdown, I believe we have to understand, we will not be able to go back to how we were. At the moment, we are unsure as to what the Government’s guidelines will be, but it is likely to include social distancing for the foreseeable future.
At the Council, we are quickly developing a recovery strategy and thinking through how we can deliver the services you expect, and have been used to, under what will be very different circumstances.
My current focus is on putting in place the necessary plans to support our local economy. Council staff acted quickly to implement business rate reliefs and have also got funds out to local businesses – so far over 1,567 businesses have received £21.145m worth of grants; for more information follow this link https://www.solihull.gov.uk/Business/Business-rates.
The Planning committee is now up and running again, so developments can be brought forward. We are supporting pubs and restaurants to offer takeaway services and we have temporarily suspended car parking charges in our main centres.
We now have to work with colleagues from the business community to see what else we can do to get our economy working again. As part of that engagement, today I’ll be taking part in a Solihull Chamber Webinar. My message is that the Council recognises how difficult things are at the moment for businesses, but that it is only by working together that we can create a sustainable recovery.
However, the task of recovery will be even more challenging when we factor in climate change. The global coronavirus crisis might have captured the headlines, but the environment and climate change crisis has not gone away. The pressure will go on to reduce carbon emissions, invest in the borough’s natural capital, plant trees, greening the borough’s economy.
There is a lot to be done, but I am clear that businesses need to get back to work, and people need jobs, even though we still need measures in place to protect lives and stop the spread of the virus.
From concerns about the borough as a whole to a local community issue – bonfires. I and other councillors have had an increasing number of complaints about bonfires. Given Covid-19 is a respiratory illness, it does seem thoroughly unhelpful in the least to be lighting unpleasant bonfires at the moment, especially now Garden Waste Collections are starting again. There is a new code of practice about bonfires which you can find on our website https://www.solihull.gov.uk/Resident/Pests-pollution-food-hygiene/Nuisance/bonfires.
To mark our gratitude to NHS workers for all their valiant efforts the Council’s highways contractor, Balfour Beatty, was out last night painting the Lode Lane highway with ‘Thank You NHS’, a small token of our collective appreciation that I’m sure we will all be pleased to see. Thanks to Balfour Beatty and our Highways team for making this happen.
PS. I have been contacted by Dr Daisy Fancourt from University College London. She and her colleagues are running the UK’s Covid-19 mental health research study, which provides weekly data direct to the UK government and NHS. Although they have more than 80,000 adults in their study, they need more. Participation involves answering a 10-minute online survey now and a shorter follow-up survey once a week whilst social isolation measures are in place. If you want to volunteer to take part, visit here to see more information:
I hope you can enjoy VE Day, but remember to stay home, protect our NHS and save lives.