The Lord Mayor said when the history of the activities of the city of the last decade came to be written, the historian would have many good things to say as to what Birmingham had done. Most of it was in connection with the Great War. Many good things had been done and the city had on many occasions set an example to the rest of the country which had been followed to the advantage of citizens in other large towns. But he ventured to think nothing that had happened in connection with the municipality had done more good and was likely to become more successful than the institution of the municipal savings bank. It enabled the youngest to share in its activities; it taught them the principles of thrift, and the example which the children set would be imitated by the fathers and mothers, who would see there was something more then merely receiving their wages on Friday and spending them on the Monday, because they would be able to recognise there came sooner or later a sad time for most of them. Trade, unfortunately, ebbed and flowed, and in the good period it was necessary that the people of all great cities ought to be taught to save in order they might have something to fall back upon when the bad time came.
He thought that was what was being done in Birmingham. They had been through a period of adversity when but few could afford to save anything from their weekly wages, and yet the income of the bank was increasing month by month.
The difficulty was to understand where on earth the money came from. He had made enquiries, and he could not find out what it was unless they were in competition with the other banks, and were able to pay a greater percentage in interest than the others did at the present time.
That was not the only activity of the bank. The great want to-day was houses – not houses in which people were forced to live against their will, but houses they wanted to live in, and in which they would take a pride and of which they would take care for their own benefit. The bank, being possessed of large funds, was capable of advancing up to 80% of the real value of a house. That was a movement which would give to the people a greater amount of comfort and happiness than any movement which had taken place within their times. The bank had proved successful from the first moment it was inaugurated, and there was now in the possession of the Corporation the sum of no less than two million sterling. This success was in large measure due to the ability and efficiency of Mr Hilton, one of the finest public servants in the city, and to the enthusiasm of Mr Appleby. Other municipalities were watching Birmingham very closely, and many desired to follow in her footsteps. A deputation from a neighbouring borough was visiting the city the following day to see how they did the trick and how they could do the same for the benefit of their own people, and he believed the time would come – unless the joint stock banks were too powerful and prevented Parliament passing the Bill – when other municipalities must have the same facilities for enabling their people to save as Birmingham already possessed.