Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 18 June 2020

Stay alert, control the virus, save lives – and keep social distancing

It has been good to see more and more children back in our schools, I am also pleased to welcome the Government’s decision to continue the free school meal voucher scheme throughout the summer holidays. 

We have been awaiting government guidance on the wider re-opening of schools to more year groups, which arrived this week. The government has said that if schools have the space, the staffing capacity and all protective measures implemented, they may be able to open to further year groups in schools – this will, however, be down to each individual school’s risk assessment and capacity.

This means some families may find that their children are invited back and others will not. Whilst I know this will be disappointing news for some of you, with the current guidance it is unfortunately inevitable this will be the case while current social distancing requirements remain in place.

Our town centres are now open again for non-essential shopping, although I am still worrying about the anecdotal reports of people not observing the social distancing rules, on Monday in particular. We have worked hard with retailers to pass on the guidance about how to open in a Covid-safe manner, just as we have with businesses about re-opening offices and workplaces.

I understand the guidance is being followed indoors. There seems to be a problem in the busier town centres, on the pavements and public spaces. We will keep an eye on this, especially in Solihull, where footfall has increased markedly – in case there is anything more we can do.

In the coming weeks we will continue to work with our local town centre retailers to help them get back on their feet. I also encourage people to shop local – to paraphrase a national campaign “shop like your local high street depends on it, ‘cos it does”. Not only are our local centres more convenient, but using them will also reduce non-essential journeys.

So in Men’s health week, I have a message on another medical issue that will concern women too. Are the men in your lives looking after themselves? Prostate Cancer is another big and silent killer. Now medical science has moved on, but it still needs to be diagnosed. I actually found mine due to sheer luck, not any symptoms, when I had to deal with it in my Mayoral year in 2010. We know that because of Covid-19, people have been putting off getting help and cancer referrals are generally down right – so don’t to delay, talk to your GP today.

Now turning to the subject of business, a new scheme launched today by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP). gives businesses the opportunity to apply for match funding of up to £40,000 to help accelerate their recovery from Covid-19, through embracing new business models, entering new markets or changing the way they work. I want to encourage businesses in Solihull to apply for financial support from this new £2 million “Pivot and Prosper Grant Fund” (

Pivot and Prosper is designed specifically to support the key strategic sectors identified in the GBSLEP’s Local Industrial Strategy. It’s an opportunity for organisations to ‘pivot’ to new ways of working, hopefully leading to an increase in employment opportunities, growth in productivity and more innovation across the region.

In a past Message I have also talked about the GBSLEPS’s “Step Forward” scheme (, another part of the LEPs business support offer. It’s extremely encouraging that many businesses have been contacting the Growth Hub to ask about this – see the link here Step Forward scheme. I am including a link here to other sources of support that may be available for business from Solihull For Success (

I understand that after 13 weeks of lockdown people are desperate to get out, but please, for your own safety and for the safety of others:-

keep at least two metres away from other people

keep handwashing and if you become unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature or loss of taste and/or smell, get tested and self-isolate.

Personally, I support more wearing of face coverings – ours are home-made by a kind and careful neighbour. Shop safely, support your local centres, keep socially distancing, look out for each other and stay safe. 

Stay alert, help control the virus, save lives.

My wish for you of Health, Happiness and Harmony, in these difficult times. 

Please take care