22 JULY 1972, Page 30

Skinflint's City Diary

It is disappointing to see that the appeal to the public for subscriptions towards a part of the cost of ' saving' Titian's Death of Actaeon for the nation has succeeded and that the public purse will now be charged with paying for most of the balance.

Christies and Julius Weitzner have chuckled slyly in responding to the appeal. Christies have given £3,500 from the huge commission they earned and Julius Weitzner £1,000 from the £100,000 margin he allowed himself in giving Mr Paul Getty the chance to buy the picture after the sale. No one blames Mr Weitzner in bidding the picture up. The fault lies in our overgoverned society underwriting activities of this kind which distort market forces.

Defending BSC

The British Steel Corporation is planning within the next year or two to close a small out-of-date steel rolling mill at Warley in the West Midlands — their Birchley Works, employing 227 men. The Birmingham Post is, naturally enough, taking up this local interest and the cause of the men who are to lose their jobs. The newspaper's campaign stresses that Glynwed and Cooper Industries, two West Midland companies, have each offered to buy Birchley from the British Steel Corporation. British Steel have said they are not prepared to sell to the private sector for readily understandable reasons.

The British Steel Corporation is right and should stand firmly by its decision (though one's feelings are with the men, particularly the middle management, who have organised resistance to the closure). For the British Steel Corporation to sell the works at a knock-down price to Glynwed or Cooper Industries would mean the creation of a competitor — a private sector company with little capital employed, using a cheap old plant to produce a low-price product for a few years until British Steel's alternative sources are on stream. The existing and future order book would be difficult to transfer to the new works with the continuance of activity at Birchley. Mr John Davies's decision to allow BSC to dispose of its fringe activities should not conflict with British Steel's freedom to break up, rather than sell as a going concern, a plant which if it was kept running might well jeopardise the success of their long range planning.

Bentley's tribulations Closing Triang Toys has added to the tribulations of John Bentley, the Chairman of Barclay Securities.

He is at the receiving end of the attentions of the Angry Brigade, or of people calling themselves by that name, who have threatened his life. He now has to have a twenty-four hours police watch on his house and offices, and is being forced to not only change cars but to inspect carefully what he is driving before he starts.