Solihull is a place of contrasts. It is repeatedly rated as one of the best places to live in the UK and we celebrate this accolade and take advantage of all the benefits it brings. However, the headline masks some challenges, none more so than the persistent inequality gaps which are stubbornly difficult to shift. We know that Solihull is well placed economically, that people aspire to live and work here, and that this leads to the perception that some of the social challenges are less and easier to tackle than in other parts of our region and country. Whilst this is true in part, it is also the legacy of strong leadership, ambitious foresight/planning and Silihillian endeavour over 30 or more years. This collection of qualities and characteristics continue to define and distinguish the place and people of Solihull today and will carry us forward to make it an even better and more equal place. Here is a snapshot of what makes the Borough a great place to live, learn, work and play, the challenges it faces and the opportunity that this contrast presents us:
A few things that are already great about Solihull
Attractive environment. Two thirds of the Borough (11,500 hectares) is Green Belt which is why we have the motto “Urbs in Rure” – town in country.
Existing regionally and nationally significant economic assets and transport infrastructure. Solihull is most productive economy in the West Midlands in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA) per head of population and per workforce job. In fact, GVA per workforce job has increased by 6% since 2011. These economic assets support over 100,000 jobs.
Aspirational housing, with values consistently above the regional average.
Excellent schools and education opportunities. 90% of schools in the Borough are good or outstanding and school attainment at Key Stages 2 and 4 is above the national average.
The fastest growing labour market outside of London. Private sector employment grew by 26% (+19,800) between 2010 and 2015.
Good Social Cohesion. 80% of respondents to the Solihull Place Survey 2018 agree that people from different backgrounds get on well together in their local area.
Some of the challenges for the Borough
A prosperity gap. While much of the borough is relatively affluent, 16 out of 134 neighbourhoods are in the most deprived 10% in the country. Impacts are felt across a broad range of outcomes including educational attainment, employment, crime and health.
Creating Growth for All. Inclusive economic growth means ensuring that good opportunities are available to all of our residents, in particular, that people are able to access new employment opportunities and housing.
Amongst the challenges we face is how to adapt our local transport system to cope with current and forecast demand, and how to increase the proportion of people who commute by public transport, walking or cycling. Maximising public transport connectivity is essential in linking major employment sites to residential areas.
In future many new jobs will require higher level skills. We are well placed to meet this skills requirement, however, some residents will require support to access these opportunities. Employment rates for those with lower skills, ill health (particularly for those with a mental health issue), carers and lone parents are much lower than the rest of the population.
A Changing Population. Our community is becoming increasingly diverse with a far larger proportion from an ethnic minority background than 10 years ago (14% in 2011 compared to 5% in 2001). This population will continue to grow more diverse and our service design needs to be sensitive to this diversity.
The most significant population change is the rapid increase in the number of older residents. The 75 and over population in Solihull is expected to grow by around 700 per year over the medium term.
The number of people aged 65 and over with dementia is projected to rise by 39% between 2017-2030, with similar increases for those living with long-term health conditions and the number needing help with self care and mobility tasks. The number of people of this age group living alone is expected to rise by 39% by 2030. Providing a range of appropriate housing options will be critical, as will community support to prevent loneliness in older people.