Pictures flashed across the world of rampaging mobs will inflict huge damage on Birmingham’s reputation, city council leader Mike Whitby warned.
He said he was deeply concerned at the conduct of young thugs who “think they can steal at will” and admitted that any further riots would cause incalculable harm to Birmingham’s status as a major business and tourism centre.
After inspecting the damage caused by Monday night’s violence, which saw more than 20 shops trashed, and talking to community groups, he said he was impressed by the determination of traders to return to normality.
But the council leader also warned of an atmosphere of fear and apprehension as the evening approached and many shops began to close early.
Coun Whitby – who coined the slogan Birmingham a Global City with a Local Heart – said: “There is a mood change in the evening about what might happen.”
Since taking control of the council in 2004 at the head of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, Coun Whitby has spearheaded attempts to promote Birmingham as an inclusive, business-friendly city famous for its growing number of top restaurants. He accepts that major multi-national companies are only likely to establish headquarters in Birmingham if the city has a low-crime reputation and offers a range of facilities for middle class professionals.
Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) added: “I am deeply concerned about what this is doing to the image of Birmingham after all we have done to improve the brand over the past eight years.
“We have promoted the city as culturally diverse, open and safe and all that is now at risk.
“It is important that people realise the behaviour of this minority of criminals is going to damage the livelihoods of everyone who lives in Birmingham.
“We have to do everything we can to resume normal life as quickly as possible.”
Coun Whitby added that CCTV footage of Monday night’s disturbance identified scores of rioters and he was hopeful that the police would bring prosecutions.