Birmingham Mail: January 3rd 1935
Birmingham's relations with Sutton Coldfield formed the subject of a long debate at last night's meeting of Sutton Coldfield Town Council, when the question of the establishment of a branch of the Municipal Bank in the borough was discussed.
The General Purposes Committee, having regard to the terms of a letter received from the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, recommended the Council to give consent to the establishment of a branch. The resolution was moved by Councillor Britton, and Councillor Ogley, who seconded, said a branch would be of great use to Sutton depositors, who numbered nearly 4,000.
Alderman G F Pearson moved an addendum, that the resolution be approved with the addition of the following words: "Provided the City Council gives an undertaking in writing that, should they at some future time make application to annex Sutton Coldfield or any part of it, they will not advance as part of their case the fact that they have established a branch of the Municipal Bank in the borough."
Alderman Pearson said he had been a member of the Council for twenty-seven years, and the resolution before it was one of the most important in the history of the Council. If the resolution were passed in the form submitted, he could plainly see the time when, in the future, Sutton would be fighting Birmingham for its existence.
The Council was told that the letter from the Lord Mayor dispelled any difficulty it might have in thinking Birmingham would consider such a "dreadful thing" as the annexation of Sutton Coldfield by the city, and bring in as one of the reasons the fact that there was a branch of the bank in the borough.
He had carefully considered the letter received from Birmingham, and there was not one sentence in it which gave assurance that what he feared would never take place. The Council had been told, as an excuse, that Birmingham Council in giving that undertaking had no power to bind its successors. That was the most childish statement he had ever heard. There were many agreements with the city - for example over the sewerage and the electricity. That Birmingham could not bind its successors in an agreement was "all stuff and nonsense."
Even if Birmingham Council had not that power, the matter was one for the Sutton authority. Birmingham could not blow both hot and cold. The letter received from Birmingham was very diplomatic, talking a lot about things which did not matter but not coming to the point. The only thing that Birmingham said was that nothing of the kind - the annexation of Sutton Coldfield - was contemplated.
He did not think Sutton should rely on that, in view of the land Birmingham had annexed. Last century, Birmingham's acreage was 8,420 when Sutton's was 13,178. In 1891 the city annexed Saltley, Harborne and Balsall Heath, bringing the total acreage to 12,365, which was still less than Sutton. In 1909 Quinton was annexed and in 1911 Aston, Erdington, Handsworth, King's Norton, Northfield and Yardley. That was the greatest scheme of its kind in the country, and brought the acreage of the city up to 43,600 acres. In 1928 Birmingham annexed "little Perry Barr." When it came to Perry Barr it was discovered that part of the land sought was fronting the Chester Road (in Sutton) with a large part of the boundary overlooking Sutton Park, the frontage being about 100 yards deep. That matter was fought in Parliament, and Sutton's claim that the strip of land should become part of Sutton was upheld. "When we came out of the meeting," he continued, "you would be surprised at the unfriendliness and coldness some of the Birmingham aldermen and councillors showed towards Sutton."
The demand for a branch bank had not come from Sutton people. The Council had been informed of the desire from Birmingham. Birmingham supplied Sutton with gas; the borough was compelled to take some of the electricity supply from Birmingham, and Sutton was a "very junior partner" in the Tame and Rea District Drainage Board. The more services Birmingham supplied to Sutton the better would be the city's case when the time for annexation came. Birmingham already owned land in the borough - the municipal golf course at Pype Hayes, and on the north side owned 3,500 acres of land on the Canwell Estate. The city had virtually surrounded the borough on three sides, and with the city's record for "land grabbing" Birmingham would have no compunction in trying to acquire Sutton's 13,000 acres. If permission to establish the bank were granted, as soon as the city was ready for annexation, Sutton "would not have a leg to stand on." If the resolution were passed in the form suggested, he was confident that it would be the worst thing the Council had ever done for the borough.
Councillor W Lawley seconded.
Alderman J E Willmott led several speakers who supported the resolution. Unless Birmingham had a lunatic in charge, he said, it would never try to annex a town with the history and tradition of Sutton. Sutton was a town when Birmingham was a collection of small shacks, and he characterised Alderman Pearson's remarks as being "childish" and savouring of panic. Sutton could look after itself, and Sutton's attitude to the city should be one of "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf."
After further discussion the addendum was lost by thirteen votes to eighteen, and the resolution as presented was carried.
Bank's Press Cutting Archive also contained a copy of the following letter - date and publication not stated
TO THE EDITOR
Dear Sir, - An island, we all know, is a "piece of land wholly surrounded by water" - islands have been known to disappear when the water has encroached on them.
Sutton Coldfield is a Royal Borough not quite, but very nearly, surrounded by Birmingham, and there lies the danger.
Birmingham to-day may be ultra-polite; they may express the opinion, as I believe they have, that annexation is farthest from their thoughts, but are we legislating for to-day?
Alderman Pearson is not; he is looking forward to the time when this extreme politeness may have passed away. He has sufficient foresight to see far beyond his term of office. Would that more of our governors had the same capacity!
To be brief and direct, believe me, unless some check is put on the enveloping tentacles of our third largest city, within but a few years, Sutton, the lamb, will lie down with the lion, but inside it!
I have a great admiration for our very worthy citizen, Alderman Willmott, but I believe most people who have known him as long as I have will admit that in comparison with Alderman Pearson he is a theorist and dreamer.
And there are few, if any, theorists and dreamers in the Birmingham "make-up"; all they want is territory, territory, and more territory; and in my humble opinion, Alderman Pearson is dead right in endeavouring by legitimate opposition and well-considered safeguards to ensure against this aggression.
An argument used against Alderman Pearson in the recent Council debate was that he was inconsistent because he was a party to the civic welcome which the borough gave to the Birmingham Gas undertaking when it established a branch in the Royal Town. Electricity was also mentioned, but -
There is a pronounced difference: No Sutton resident can individually negotiate for a supply of gas or electricity; that is an impossible proposition. Therefore if the supply of his own town is not sufficient to provide him, it is clearly up to the town to make arrangements for supply from other sources, but -
If a resident has a particular desire to invest his money in the Birmingham Municipal Bank, well, he can do so without establishing a branch in his own town, where conceivably hundreds of thousands of pounds might be invested, giving "the big, bad wolf" a still greater claim to annexation.
No, Mr Editor, Mr Pearson is right, and I am open to gamble a hundred to one that if a plebiscite were taken, it would give him a huge majority.
The question is supposed to be closed, but I say without fear of contradiction that our councillors must have second thoughts about it, must hesitate before they sell their birthright for a mess of pottage.
I feel so strongly on this matter that if those who think with me desire it, I will do everything within my power to assist in the organisation of a town's meeting on this subject.
EDWD B REENY
(A resident for over 30 years)