War Savings Scheme (1916)

On May 11th, members of the Committee met with leaders of trade unions and the Lord Mayor explained the Scheme to them and appealed for their assistance to make it a success. Mr Stanway (President of the Trades Council) moved, and Mr Edwards seconded "That this meeting approves the Birmingham War Savings Scheme and undertake to give it full support". Messrs. Shakespeare, Crump, Merril and others spoke and voiced objections on the basis that it was impossible for them to save on their present earnings; and that the men strongly objected to their employers knowing what their savings were - they were willing to support the scheme on the condition that it could be worked apart from the employers.


Although the Lord Mayor said that he felt that the labour leaders could persuade the workers against their prejudices, but that after the strong opinions that had been expressed he thought that the right course would be to ask Mr Stanway to withdraw his resolution for the present.


Due to the opposition of the Joint Stock Banks, the Municipal Savings Banks (War Loan Investment) Bill enabling the establishment of the Bank was dropped. Consideration was given to a suggestion that the Scheme could be implemented by registering it as a friendly society, but further negotiations by Neville Chamberlain with the Banks, the Treasury, and the Local Government Board resulted in a new Bill (which was more restrictive) being introduced into the House of Commons on July 12th 1916. In the meantime, alternative accommodation for the Bank (to that offered by the Water Department) was considered: the refreshment room in the new Art Gallery had a very commodious entrance and a room at the back which would make a good office. However, it was later decided to take up the offer of the Water Department. It was also decided that the new Bank would open on September 29th, its hours being fixed as 10 - 4 Monday to Friday, plus Wednesday evenings 6 - 8 and Saturday mornings 10 - 1. Temporary staff to start the Bank would be lent by the Treasurer until he was in a position to say what permanent staff would be required.


With the legislative procedure making slow progress, no Committee meetings were held between May 19th and August 30th. On the latter day, the Lord Mayor was able to exhibit a copy of the Municipal Savings Banks (War Loan Investment) Act, 1916 that had received Royal Assent a week previously. He also reported that he had conveyed the thanks of the Corporation to the Members of both Houses of Parliament, and to the Town Clerk.


With just a month to go before the Bank was to open, the Committee dealt with several administrative matters:


- Draft Rules and Regulations for the management and conduct of the Bank were considered and amendments made to specify that it was the duty of the Committee to publish accounts (not the Accountant) and that the Council should be authorised to delegate their powers to a Committee of Management appointed for the purpose. The amended Rules and Regulations were subsequently approved by the Treasury, the Local Government Board, and the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies;


- John Peter Hilton was appointed Manager of the Bank, under the supervision of the City Treasurer, and took up his duties on September 18th;


- discussions were held with the Managers of the local Joint Stock Banks to make the necessary banking arrangements and for the issuing of Coupons;


- the National War Savings Committee was requested to bear the cost of providing the Coupons and forms required by the Bank;


- letters and circulars were despatched to some 2,350 employers;


- formal approval of the City Council was obtained on September 15th when a Report of the Corporation Savings Bank Committee (that included the Rules that were to govern the Bank's operations) was presented and the following resolutions were passed:


23,409 RESOLVED. That this Council do establish a Savings Bank under the provisions of the Municipal Savings Banks (War Loan Investment) Act, 1916.


23,410 RESOLVED. That the Rules now submitted be approved and made by this Council as the Rules as to the conduct of the business at the Savings Bank, and that the Corporation Seal be affixed thereto.


23,411 RESOLVED. That the powers and duties of this Council under the Municipal Savings Banks (War Loan Investment) Act, 1916, and the regulations and rules made thereunder, be wholly delegated to the Corporation Savings Bank Committee subject to the obligation to report to this Council on the savings bank business and to the observance of the general instructions to committees so far as they can apply to the bank.


23,412 RESOLVED. That the Report of the Corporation Savings Bank Committee be approved.


- a tender was accepted from Smith's Systems Company to supply 1 Six-tray cabinet for Ledger Cards; 1 Six-tray cabinet for Index Cards complete with base, cornice and locking arrangement;


6,000 Ledger Cards - 5,000 numbered and 1,000 not numbered; 2 sets of Guide Cards; 5,000 Index Cards

    - all at a total cost of 20. 18. 0d.


- Kenrick & Jefferson were paid 12. 7. 6d to supply 1 Plain Table (4' by 2'); 1 Typist's Desk with drawers; 1 Typist's Chair; 1 Revolving Chair, and 3 Office Chairs;


- some items of furniture were borrowed: a roll-top desk (from the Finance Committee), a small table (from Sparkhill Council), and a large cupboard (from the Rates Department);


- some structural alterations were made to the Water Department offices to provide the necessary security and privacy:


Manager's Office: electric light installed; electric bell to connect with General Office; telephone connected; door lock installed; lettering affixed to the door.

General Office: wood and glass partition fixed to counter; counter screen installed and a light fixed over it; locks provided for drawers and cupboards under the counter;


- 100,000 Coupons of 1/- value were received and an initial distribution made to various Banks:

   Lloyds Bank Limited - 500

   London City & Midland Bank Ltd - 500

   Barclay & Co. Limited - 300

   National Provincial Bank of England Limited - 300

   Capital & Counties Bank Limited - 50

   London County & Westminster Bank Limited - 50

  London & Provincial Bank Limited - 50

   Parr's Bank, Limited - 50

   Union of London & Smith's Bank Limited - 50


- accounts were opened with Farrow's Bank and the Bank of England, who had not been previously approached;


- additional staff appointments were made: a Mr W Saull (District Manager of the Hearts of Oak Friendly Society, West Bromwich) was engaged as Mr Hilton's assistant at a salary of 160 per annum; and Mr J A Smith was temporarily engaged at 2. 2. 0d per week to address meetings and carry out "propaganda work generally under the direction of the Manager".


With the Bank now approved, the Lord Mayor (Neville Chamberlain) again wrote to employers to advise them of the situation and to invite their co-operation in the success of the savings scheme. One of the Lord Mayor's letters enclosed a handbill entitled 'What Employers Have To Do'. A separate handbill was published to encourage employees to participate in the Scheme.


J P Hilton took up his post on the agreed date and subsequently made the following report:


To the Chairman and Members of the Committee of Management:


I have the honour to report that I took up my duties on Monday, the 18th day of September, 1916.


At the request of Messrs Hood Limited, Edmund Street, I addressed a meeting of their employees on Thursday on the premises at 1-30pm. About 100 employees were present. Mr Hood presided over the meeting, which received my explanation of the scheme favourably. Many questions were asked and at the close a resolution was passed copy of which is attached hereto.


Arising out of the question at this meeting and out of correspondence which has been received from other firms, I ask for instructions of the Committee upon the following points:-


(1) Whether it is intended to strictly enforce Rule 10 requiring 7 days notice for withdrawals or whether discretionary power will be vested in the Manager to arrange an earlier payment in cases of hardship, bonafide made, and after inquiry proved to be so.


(2) Whether the Committee intend to authorise the suspension of employee's original authority for payment by coupons, where an employee is away from work owing to illness, in order to avoid a revocation of the authority.


(3) Speaker to address a gathering of workpeople at Elliotts Metal Co. Ltd., (employing 1,000).


(4) Are the Committee prepared to allow the adoption of the suggestion of Messrs May & Padmore Ltd., for their workpeople to purchase coupons.

(5) What arrangements do the Committee wish to be made as to future meetings and propaganda work.


(6) Are Posters to be provided for exhibition in works.


It will be necessary for the Committee to decide how the application forms are to be distributed to the various firms on Monday, and how coupon cards are to be sent round later on in the week.


Notice boards and cards are required for outside the Bank entrance and in the approach to the Bank and the General Office. It is suggested that 2 oak boards Varnished and lettered in Black should be placed outside the entrance and 3 notice cards in the approaches and the Bank itself. 


It will be necessary for a porter to be on duty for the evening openings.


In cases where the Head Office of a firm is in the City area but the works are outside, do the Committee interpret Rule 8 to be against such employees being allowed to join the Bank.


The work of organisation which is rather heavy is well in hand, and I desire to express to the City Treasurer my thanks for his courtesy and ready help and advice, and to Miss Parkes for her willing co-operation during the past week.


I have the honour to be,


Your obedient servant,


J P Hilton,



Mr Hilton's report was considered by the Committee at its meeting on September 22nd and it was


RESOLVED:- That the first point was dealt with in Clause 14 of the Regulations. Point 2 that suspension of authority was included in variation and that Form B would meet the case. Three, the Chairman authorised the Manager to postpone the meeting at Messrs Elliotts. Four, if a firm wishes to make their own arrangements to deal with the coupons they were at liberty to do so. Fifth, the propaganda work for addressing meetings, etc., should be left to the manager. Sixth, that Councillor Hallas and the Manager be asked to draft a poster to be exhibited in Works, explaining how the scheme is worked. That the Sign Boards and cards be left in the hands of the Committee Clerk.


On Thursday, September 28th 1916, the Committee held its final meeting prior to the Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank opening for business - on the following day. The meeting approved a recommendation by the City Treasurer for a procedure to be followed where an employer was paying its workers out of its own cash rather than drawing it from its Joint Stock Bank, and to cater for contributions made other then on a weekly basis:


In the case of employers not drawing their money to pay wages direct from a Joint Stock Bank, they may apply to the Head Office of the Savings Bank for a supply of Coupons, for which they would pay cash over the counter.


Before issuing the Coupons in such case, it would be necessary for the employer to obtain application forms (Form A) from the Savings Bank. When these have been filled up and signed by the employee, the employer would be entitled to obtain the requisite Coupons as indicated above, but on the first request being made by the employer for coupons under the provisions for this rule, the Application Forms (Form A) should be produced at the counter.


It is understood that if an employee cannot afford to contribute so much as one shilling per week, there is nothing in the rules to prevent the application being made for the contribution to be made fortnightly or monthly.


The Bank opened for business the following day, and in the period to Saturday, October 7th the amount of 302. 1. 10d was received.
Birmingham Corporation
Savings Bank