2 NOVEMBER 1974, Page 26

Skinflint's City Diary

For some reason this column has been almost flattened by competing material on these pages. Anyway during a period when the banks are gasping for cash to lend and industry is bothered by rising costs and the difficulty of maintaining their employment levels one West End figure has plenty to be proud about. Cyril Stein of Ladbrokes the betting shop and casino business is doing better than ever and has declared that he expects to be awarded the Queens Award for Industry. Perhaps he will be the only one in 1975. A thought should be spared and a consolation award of some sort considered for the thousands of overworked clerks in the Ministry of Social Security who look as if they may be having another hard working and productive year handing out the various sorts of relief; some of which helps Cyril Stein in his vital work by finishing up in Ladbrokes tills.

The slump I

During the past few days I have heard further tales of the remorseless fall in values of those articles that Were reported in the press as being inflation hedges and private stores of value. A pair of Holland and Holland shotguns — of the superior type known as Royals -were unsold at Sothebys last week. Christies are having a hard time selling pictures and British Moderns especially. Jack Barclay the motor dealers and agents for RollsRoyce are, so It is said, having grave trouble in maintaining the secondhand values of their cars. Worse, a dealer is reported to have acquired a three-month-old Silver Shadow (current price £13,999) for £9,000. Oh dear what dark and terrible times we are living through?

The slump II

Over the weekend I was talking to a guy who works, I think, for Strutt and Parker the estate agents. As an indication of the prevailing gloom they have apparently decided to

warn potential sellers of country houses in the £75,000 to £150,000 range of the sort found in Virginia Water and Ascot that have little land that the chances of selling are minimal. Strutt and Parker are even going so far as to say that to put these houses on their books will mislead clients and they advise withdrawing the property until better times. The reasons for the slump in this sector are, firstly the anticipated wealth and gift tax. Secondly, ostentatious ownership is being shunned until wealth tax inventories are out of the waY. Thirdly, disallowance of interest as a charge against taxation for houses worth more than £25,000, and lastly the lack of credit and the stock market slump. House agents say they can demonstrate from Past sales figures that sales follow the Financial Times Share Index UP and down by a six month lag.

International credit bankruptcy

One man I would not care to. change places with is the Israeli who has siphoned off $200 million or so from the Israeli Corporati0n. and other quasi-official Israeli organisations. The money is said to be hidden away in some mysterious account in Switzerland or Lela?' tenstein. The Israelis have their ways of finding those they are looking for, as a good many ex-Nazi war crimials know to their cost, ant' making them talk.

It is easy to be mordantly amused by financial swindles but this falls into a different area. Israel has been undergoing a cruel and brutal War. The country is poor and reliant on the charity of their people in other countries. This charity may becoroe that little more difficult to raise for relief and rebuilding as a conse" quence of this enormous theft.

It is time for bankers and those with funds to invest to understanl that big time theft is not done I)) breaking down the safe door but hY, depositing in defaulting finano131 institutions.