Speeches made at the Opening of the Head Offices of the Bank
at 6 and 8 Edmund Street
July 6th 1925
Head Office
Edmund Street
The following is an extract from Britain's First Municipal Savings Bank, where J P Hilton records the speeches made at the opening ceremony of the Bank's first self-contained Head Offices in Edmund Street:
The Lord Mayor (Alderman Percival Bower) presided over the ceremony, and commenced the proceedings by saying:-
How peculiarly fitting it is that Mr Chamberlain should perform the ceremony, having regard to the intense interest he has shown in the work of the Bank, for the inauguration of which he is mainly responsible.
I venture to suggest that when the history of the city comes to be written, not only will the name of Mr Chamberlain figure well in its pages, but not the least memorable part of his Municipal activities will be associated with what I feel sure both Mr and Mrs Chamberlain must be extremely proud of, namely, that the infant in the form of the Municipal Bank has grown in the manner it has, and now takes such a part in the lives of the citizens that it enables the citizens in many cases to secure themselves against adversity and want.
Mr Chamberlain was presented with a silver key in commemoration of the occasion, and in accepting it said:-
The occasion is indeed a memorable one for me. The Lord Mayor has alluded to the circumstances in which the Bank started, and I recollect well the moment when the thought first came into my mind as I was crossing Chamberlain Square one day.
Wonderfully indeed have our anticipations been fulfilled, and more than fulfilled; and I shall never cease to pay tribute to those who helped me at the start, and who have since carried on the work to the wonderful proportions which it has attained to-day.
This key, which is itself the symbol adopted by the Bank, which denoted security to those associated with it - I shall always treasure, and shall be proud to hand it on to my children.
Speaking at a luncheon in celebration of the occasion, Mr Chamberlain gave a retrospect of the Bank and expressed his pleasure at seeing Alderman Gregory and Mr Eldred Hallas present, two stalwarts who had given him their powerful help in setting the Bank up. Proceeding, he said:-
What is the secret of progress so astonishingly rapid and complete? It is only fair to say the Bank had been conducted by a committee distinguished for its businesslike qualities and has a staff which has shown an example of devotion and loyalty; but they will be the first to say that credit for the progress is not due to that alone.
I think in the Bank we have hit upon an institution which is peculiarly adapted to Municipal administration. The essence of success in a savings bank is that the depositors should have absolute confidence in the security of the institution, and in a Bank of this kind they have not merely the material security of the rates behind the Bank, but also a long-established familiarity with local administration; a sense that those who are conducting the affairs of the Bank are the elected of the people, are responsible to them, and can be called to account for all they do or leave undone. We have in our local administration the very essence of success in the confidence of the citizens.
There is another advantage which has only become apparent now. By accumulating the savings of the poorer sections of the community we can forge an instrument capable of great things, and all connected with finances of a city know that great as are its resources they are not illimitable, and that anything that can harness the multitude to the financial car is going to add very materially to the resources of the town.
I can conceive there may be even further opportunities for our institution to use its resources for the purpose of the collective ownership of houses for the working-classes, and thus relieve materially the tremendous drain upon the resources of the city, which will be necessitated by any great extension of schemes added to the already huge volume of money poured out on the building of new houses.
I believe it is common ground among all political parties that it is desirable that tenants of houses should be responsible for their own rates, if they are to understand the duties and responsibilities as well as the right of citizenship.
Obviously, if the Bank can step in and be the agent for the collection of these rates it may do a great deal towards the simplification and cheapening of the administration. Whilst I understand there are technical difficulties in the way to-day, I hope in time they may be swept away by the passage into law of the new Valuation and Rating Bill.
The Bank has established itself in the confidence of the people; it is a great educational force; it is inculcating the virtues of thrift; it is a staff which is aiding many a wanderer along the path of life to plant his steps more securely, and is a very potent means of harnessing the savings of the working-classes and utilising them for the benefit of every single individual of the community.