Birmingham Post – July 26th 1921
A further stage in the remarkable progress of the Birmingham Municipal Bank was reached yesterday, when the first permanent branch was formally opened at Sparkbrook by Mr Neville Chamberlain, MP. The new bank has a frontage to Stratford Road (opposite Farm Road) of 43ft. The ground floor frontage has been rebuilt and faced with white Hollington stone, with two entrance doors and vestibules in oak. The bank hall, which is about 42ft long, is treated internally in a deep orange-coloured scheme, which gives a rich luminous effect; and the fittings are in a dull polished mahogany.
A commemorative tablet in bronze with cream enamel lettering and with the city arms is fixed on the back wall of the bank hall, and bears the inscription:- “Birmingham Municipal Bank. Established by Act of Parliament, August 15, 1919. This tablet records the opening of the first permanent branch of the bank on 25th July, 1921, by Neville Chamberlain, MP. Alderman W A Cadbury, Lord Mayor.” The tablet was made by the Birmingham Guild. The whole of the reconstruction work was carried out by Mr Frederick J Briley, of Hay Mills, under the superintendence of Mr Gerald McMichael, architect to the committee.
Prior to the opening ceremony Councillor Appleby, chairman of the committee, entertained a number of the members of the City Council and others to tea at the Christ Church schools.
The Lord Mayor referred to the growth of the bank’s business. In 1919 the sum standing to the credit of depositors was £330,000. To-day there were 24 branches, 64,000 depositors, and £1,485,000 in deposits. That was a record that was exceedingly creditable to the committee. He had no doubt that the fact of the establishment of a municipal bank had been to withdraw a certain number of depositors from the Post Office and other banks, but on the other hand he was sure that a large number of the accounts opened were new accounts. The bank began in the days of the war, when savings were a national need. It had progressed through the difficult times of the coal strike, and there were not the withdrawals that one might have supposed would take place. The bank possessed several interesting features, and was now offering to receive water rates. The difficult problem of savings by workpeople had been solved by the bank, and the bank had taken over the accounts of several companies on behalf of their workpeople. At present that amounted to £78,000. There was large scope in the city for an increase in that direction. Mr Neville Chamberlain had taken a deep interest in the bank, and it was very fitting that he should be asked to open the first permanent branch. The city owed him a deep debt of gratitude.
Councillor C T Appleby, the chairman of the committee, said that within about fourteen days of the passing of the Parliamentary Bill, seventeen branches were opened, staffed, and received deposits. The extension of direct rating under which the bulk of ratepayers would have to pay their rates direct and not through the landlord, would undoubtedly be of great advantage. It would make people realise the fact that they paid rates. There was every probability that in the negotiations now taking place satisfactory arrangements would be made under which the bank would undertake that duty. Why could not wages be paid by orders or cheque upon the bank? People would thus be enabled to draw their weekly requirements, and leave the balance on deposit. That would be of advantage to the citizens and the country generally. He thought that enormous success would attend the efforts of the bank, and that the city would eventually see one of the most important epochs in municipal development.
Mr Neville Chamberlain referred at the outset to the difficulties which preceded the establishment of the bank and the propaganda that was carried out. When he looked at the position to-day, he could not help thinking of the marvellous progress that had been made. They did not measure the success of the bank by the number of depositors or the amount of the deposits. Those associated with the movement from the beginning felt that if they could have the bank permanently established it would be an immense bulwark to the sense of security, contentment, and self-respect of the community. The bank had progressed triumphantly. At this period of unemployment they had larger number of depositors, and the fact that such a huge sum of money stood to the credit of the working classes must have given them that sense of security. In the absence of such reserves, many of them would have to go to the poor-law for relief.
Up to the present time, money had been advanced to enable over 1,000 persons to purchase their own homes. He believed the bank in that respect had only scraped the surface of its activity. The cost of houses had gone up to an inordinate extent, and it was obvious that anyone who bought a new home to-day at anything like its cost must look forward to writing off a large proportion of his capital in the next few years. No one could expect a working man to buy a house in such circumstances, but if the cost of building came down, as it must come down, there would be a great field open for working men to purchase their own houses. He had always held that it was desirable that working men should own their own houses. It was a powerful incentive to continue saving; it made a man always on the side of peace, good order, and sane government, and he would always use his influence on that side and not on the side of the extremists and revolutionaries. Mr Chamberlain hoped the Corporation would eventually sell their houses to the occupiers. “To-day we are entering upon a new stage in the progress of this wonderful institution,” concluded Mr Chamberlain. He paid a tribute to the services rendered by Councillor Appleby.
The company then adjourned to the bank premises, and Councillor Appleby, on behalf of the committee, presented Mr Chamberlain with a bronze key, with which he performed the opening ceremony.
Mr Eldred Hallas, MP, moved a vote of thanks to Mr Chamberlain and the Lord Mayor for the part they had taken in the opening of the new building. The bank, he said, was bound to succeed. It had gained for itself an assured position, and justified the action of those who proceeded with the scheme in the early days. The opportunities were unlimited. He could conceive of the time when the ordinary floating of Corporation stock would pass away. The name of Mr Chamberlain would always be associated with the bank. The father of Mr Chamberlain established things, did things, accomplished things in the city, and his name lived on that account. His worthy son would always be able to look at the time when, after much hard work in piloting Bills through the House of Commons, the bank came into existence. It was an example of something actually done. The present Lord Mayor had also given his blessing to the scheme.
Councillor Tiptaft seconded, and the vote was carried.
Mr Chamberlain, in reply, said it was the scheme of Mr Hallas that was adopted as the scheme for the first bank set up. Birmingham’s example would be followed by all the great municipalities of the country.