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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning:The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
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

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam