Birmingham does not have strong leadership in the same way as rival cities such as Manchester, the Minister in charge of local government has suggested.

David Miliband said Birmingham would benefit from a directly elected mayor, as he prepared to launch a report on the state of English cities.

Mr Miliband highlighted the strong leadership of Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester City Council, and contrasted it unfavourably with Birmingham.

He said: "You can't say to Richard Leese in Manchester that he is not providing strong leadership.

"However, if you ask me does Birmingham have something to learn from the London experience - would Birmingham be a stronger place with an elected mayor - I would say yes."


Another business organisation is urging Birmingham City Council to "get off the fence" and back a move to build Britain's first super-casino at the National Exhibition Centre.

The Institute of Directors in the West Midlands said Birmingham should join with Solihull Council in submitting a joint bid to the Government's Casino Advisory Panel.

The IoD is following in the footsteps of Birmingham Forward, the professional services lobby group, which is also backing the NEC, while Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry has recommended its members to support the NEC casino option.

Pressure from the business community, if accepted by the city council, would put paid to a rival proposal by Birmingham City Football Club for a #340 million stadium sports village and casino at Saltley.


Farmers may be forced to pay thousands of pounds in inheritance tax after a landmark ruling that a farmhouse is no longer exempt from tax laws.

Benefactors for a Tudor farmhouse on a 126-acre Warwickshire farm were told they had to pay thousands of pounds in inheritance tax because the property did not qualify for agricultural relief.

The legal wrangle over inheritance tax at Cookhill Priory had been rumbling since the death of former owner Rosemary Antrobus in 2001.

Taxation experts are now warning the case has set a precedent, with many farmers unlikely to claim agricultural relief on their farmhouses.


Warwickshire's Compton Verney art gallery is to stage an exhibition highlighting British collectors' interest in the works of Van Gogh.

Van Gogh and Britain: Pioneer Collectors will begin on March 31 and run until mid-June. It will focus on Britons' early enthusiasm for the artist.

The exhibition offers a representative selection of works from the artist's whole career.

The pieces include Head of a Peasant Woman (1885); Still Life, Basket of Apples (1887); Portrait of Alexander Reid (1887); Orchard in Blossom, Plum Trees (1888); Oleanders (1888); A Wheatfield with Cypresses (1889); Olive Trees (1889); Peach Blossom in the Crau (1889), and Rain-Auvers (1890).

A spokesman for the gallery said: "It is generally assumed that the British were amongst the last to appreciate Van Gogh, but this exhibition reveals the identity of a number of pioneer collectors of the artist's work."

See Tuesday's Birmingham Post for more on these stories