Councillor Penny Holbrook, Birmingham City Council

Speaker 3rd March

Councillor Penny Holbrook joined Birmingham City Council in 2003, as an Elected Member representing the Stockland Green Ward and she is currently in charge of the skills, learning and culture portfolio. Councillor Holbrook is leading on driving policy to deliver a highly skilled workforce, access to quality development and training, as well as providing a rich and extensive arts, culture and leisure offer.

She is overseeing an integrated approach to reducing unemployment in Birmingham, recognising that, as the city council is not the direct provider in this field, everyone needs to work together and invest in the city’s young people and adults.  To that end, Councillor Holbrook has already launched the Birmingham Youth Promise, guaranteeing an offer of employment, work experience, apprenticeships or work experience to all young people in the city. This is now informing a range of initiatives including the Skills Investment Plan and Youth Employment Initiative, all aimed at a ‘whole system’ approach to reducing unemployment, the creation of meaningful pathways into employment and a better trained workforce so people can access the jobs being creating in the city.  Partnership working to tackle unemployment is crucial for the city to succeed and Councillor Holbrook is working tirelessly to ensure all the relevant agencies work together, strategically and intelligently, to improve the quality of life for all of Birmingham’s citizens.

Tim Armitage, Arup

Speaker 2nd March 2016

Arup is an independent firm of consultants and technical specialists offering a broad range of professional services. Through our work, we make a positive difference in the world. We shape a better world.  Arup is present in Africa, the Americas, Australasia, East Asia, Europe and the Middle East, and has over 11,000 staff based in 92 offices across 42 countries.  

Tim Armitage is an Associate Director based at Arup’s Midlands Campus office in Solihull. Tim manages and delivers sustainable transport projects and projects that examine the potential effects of climate change on assets and operations. Currently Tim is the project director for the UK Autodrive project which is introducing connected and autonomous vehicles in Milton Keynes and Coventry.


Andrew Cole, Touchwood Shopping Centre

Speaker 3rd March 2016

Andy Cole is Centre Manager of Touchwood Shopping Centre, a 650,000sqft retail and leisure complex with nearly 14m people a year coming through it’s doors. Over the last six years energy consumption has dropped by almost fifty percent due to the wide range of initiatives the centre has implemented. In 2014 the Centre was a finalist in the UK Energy Awards and has been nominated (and won) several Green Apple awards. Touchwood are currently planning a 110,000sqft extension which will add no energy consumption to the building.

Councillor Ian Courts, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council

Speaker 2nd March 2016

Ian Courts was elected to Solihull Council in 2003 to represent Dorridge & Hockley Heath Ward. As a Councillor, Ian has served as Cabinet Member for Economic Development & Regeneration, now Business Development and Management, for a number of years, apart from 2010-11, when he was Mayor of Solihull.  Ian's responsibilities include economic growth, planning policy and land. He is an alternate Director of the GBSLEP and chairs the ESIF Committee for the GBSLEP area. Ian became Deputy Leader of the Council in 2014.

Educated in the Isle of Ely, before gaining an Exhibition Scholarship to study Law at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Qualifying as a solicitor with Nabarro Nathanson, London, Ian then joined the John Laing Group in 1974, initially as a solicitor, but then went into business management and stayed with the firm for over 30 years until retirement in 2004. Ian began working in the Midlands in the early 1990’s, where he set up a major housing business for the Laing Group, moving to the area in 1997.   He has particular interests in business and planning, the environment and the natural world and ecology.