Who can we trust?

Alan Clawley is confused by the actions of Birmingham City Council and its elected officers.

One of Paul Dale’s final reports for the Birmingham Post this week carries the headline city arts heritage struggles to cope as funding slashed. It is full of cries of desperation from Birmingham’s arts organisations; the MAC says it may have to close down for six weeks to stave off a financial crisis.

It’s rather incongruous then to read in the very last paragraph that just over half of the Council’s budget for funding arts organisations will go to Birmingham Museum Ltd [sic], ‘the trust set up to run all council-owned museums including Thinktank at Millennium Point and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery’.

I wrote in July about the Council’s intention do this (Charity ends in the Council House) when it seemed a mere twinkle in Councillor Whitby’s eye, so I was curious to know how the Council could have moved so fast that the Cabinet could now allocate £7.4 million to what would be a brand new trust with no track record, whilst cutting funding to many long-established independent arts organisations.

Councillor Mullaney’s reply to my email was ‘Where in the Post does it say that?’ Had he not read Paul Dale’s article (even when it concerned his own Cabinet portfolio) or had the information been given to the Post without his knowledge? His reaction suggests the latter.

Only after I had told him that I got my news from the Post did he release information about the mystery trust. He wrote; ‘We have incorporated Birmingham Museums Ltd (Company No. 07737797) as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, and are in the process of applying for charitable status.

Birmingham Museum LtdMy search of Companies House then told me that the company was indeed incorporated on 11th August 2011, without any public announcement by the Council at that time. I have asked Councillor Mullaney to send me a copy of its Constitution and a list of its Directors.

Registering a company does not make it a charitable trust, so, unless Councillor Mullaney has been kept in the dark, no trust yet exists. And if no such trust exists it seems premature to say the least for the Council to allocate funds to it.