The strange case of the Birmingham council boss and the £90,000 sports car (a Rover, of course)

Unions furious at loan of top-of-the-range model to Tory politician as workers are forced to give back their own cars

Angry union bosses arecon-tacting the administrators handling the collapse to find out why the Tory leader of Birmingham City Council, Mike Whitby, has a free loan on a top-of-the-range sports car.

Since MG Rover went into administration, hundreds of former employees have had to hand back the cars that the company encouraged its workforce and their families to buy at favourable rates.

Gerard Coyne, regional secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said: "Virtually every single employee of Rover had a car they have to pay for or give back. It's astounding that this Tory politician has been allowed to keep his, when you have unemployed workers struggling to find jobs who now haven't got a car, which restricts the places they can work.

"We'll be taking this up with the administrators this week. It's simply wrong, and our members will be furious."

As the head of Britain's largest local council, Mr Whitby has more power than any elected Tory politician in Westminster. His influence so impressed Rover's former management that they decided to lend him an MG XPower SV, their most expensive model, for eight months, with the insurance paid, hoping that the sight of a prominent local figure driving it would attract other buyers.

The car was delivered in April, on loan to the end of the year. Mysteriously, Mr Whitby has not publicly declared the loan, although councillors are obliged by law to register all gifts and hospitality. The council leader's long entry on the Birmingham City Council website shows that he has been meticulous in declaring other perks of office, however trivial. He has declared, for instance, that in February he was given a pair of Wellington boots when he officiated at a ceremony for a new development. But there is no mention of the loan of the sports car on the public register, which appears to have a gap for April this year.

In a statement to The Independent on Sunday, Mr Whitby said: "The declaration of interests has been duly signed. The car was declared on the register of members' interests in the proper way." He did not explain why the declaration does not appear on the website, and neither could a spokeswoman for the council.

He added: "As the leader of Birmingham City Council, I went to MG Rover to offer help and to negotiate a discount on cars for the council's employees. We employ around 57,000 people and I thought it would be a constructive way to help support the company.

"Although I have a driver during the working week, I have always bought Rover cars when it comes to my own personal use, and so I was asked to be an ambassador for the marque, in view of my industrial and commercial connections. The car was delivered to the public courtyard of the Council House. I have had the opportunity to drive it on only a few occasions, and I have made it clear that I am happy to hand it back whenever the administrators request it."

Alistair Morton, a Birmingham magistrate and former public affairs manager for MG Rover, said he arranged the loan because Mr Whitby is a well-known figure who would help to publicise the car. He added: "We needed to promote it among people who could afford to buy it. It was totally above board. We weren't giving it away. Within three days of him having the car, we had three serious calls from businessmen."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high