There are plenty of arguments that can be put forward in favour of Birmingham City Council using taxpayers’ money to help to pay for major improvements at Warwickshire County Cricket Club’s Edgbaston ground.
The council is legally able to fund any project in the public interest that enhances the reputation and wealth of Birmingham.
Certainly, steps to make sure that Test cricket continues to be played at Edgbaston by providing modern stands, changing rooms and other facilities could be said to be good for the image of the city as a whole, as well as for its economy.
And yet, there is something entirely unsatisfactory about the way that details of a possible £20 million loan have leaked out.
While the cricket club admitted in October that it would have to borrow two-thirds of the total cost if the ground improvements were to go ahead, officials certainly did not spell out then that council taxpayers would be expected to pick up the bill.
Edgbaston Conservative councillors make some valid points, not just about the scale of development planned – with flats, offices and a hotel somehow deemed necessary for the new-look ground – but also about the ability of the cricket club to repay such a large loan in the right time. This, after all, is a business that could hardly be said to make a huge profit, year on year.
The club will no doubt say that once it has the ground improvements in place, with enhanced corporate hospitality facilities and an assurance of regular Test match royalties, it will be in a financially sounder position and easily able to repay the money it owes the council.
This is a big decision for the cabinet and members must be certain of watertight guarantees from the club before handing over any money.