One of the Midlands' leading academics last night became the latest in a long line of public figures to openly criticise the leadership of Birmingham City Council.

Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya (right), head of the Warwick Manufacturing Group, suggested the Conservative-led council had failed to deliver on a pledge for sweeping reform in the manner of Joseph Chamberlain.

Speaking to the Birmingham Civic Society, Lord Bhattacharyya described Chamberlain as radical and decisive in the way he went about tackling the city's problems. "Whether buying the gas and water companies, setting up slum clearance programmes or building schools and art galleries, he took risks," he told the audience.

Lord Bhattacharyya went on: "Today we are again ruled by Liberal Conservatives, or is it Conservative Liberals? Yet I can't help but feel they have not yet provided the city with a Chamberlain."

When council leader Mike Whitby took office in June 2004 he pledged to restore civic pride and bring in radical change in the manner of Chamberlain.

Lord Bhattacharyya's remarks follow criticism of the performance of Coun Whitby's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition from Sir Digby Jones, the former CBI director general; David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, and John James, chairman of the West Midlands Institute of Directors.

Lord Bhattacharyya called on the council to lead the way in making Birmingham "integrated, numerate, skilled and educated".

He added: "A new Chamberlain might look at Birmingham and want to make sure every home had an internet connection, had a computer and broadband.

"He'd want a connected city not because it would be an end in itself, but because when that channel is opened you'd discover people would be making music, writing books, starting online businesses and creating wealth."

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