Big Screen fiasco: sorry seems to be the hardest word
It was of course never remotely likely that Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby would apologise for the Big Screen debacle.
You'll remember the fiasco: council teams up with the BBC to pay for a giant television screen in Victoria Square, grants itself planning permission in the face of opposition from conservation groups worried about the impact on listed Victorian buildings, fails to conduct noise assessment tests, finds itself in court after an injunction is granted to owners of nearby office block, and ends up facing a ÃÂ£1 million bill in order to get the thing switched on.
Harry Truman's dictum that the buck stops here must be one of the most outdated political philosophies of all time.
Indeed, had Whitby addressed the cabinet with words along the lines of, 'I'm terribly sorry, it's a major cock-up and I as council leader must take ultimate responsibility', they'd have been carrying shock victims down the Council Housed steps on stretchers.
What he actually said - "this probably wasn't our finest hour" - came as close to an apology as anything uttered in the four and a half years since he became council leader.
What everyone wanted to know, though, was to whom would the blame be shifted?
Hapless cabinet regeneration member Neville Summerfield looked uneasy, but he was in the clear.
Chirpy cabinet leisure member Ray Hassall, never normally lost for words, said nothing.
In the end, Whitby turned the attack on to the Planning Committee, which approved the screen despite never ordering noise tests to be carried out.
Officers gave advice with the result that the committee failed to order the appropriate tests or to consult properly, Whitby admitted.
But it was nothing to do with the council's political leadership since the committee is a quasi-judicial body and totally independent, he insisted.
Good grief. How many times have we heard this?
But Whitby, of all people, as a former Planning Committee member, must realise that the truth is rather different.
When faced with approving or rejecting projects that have strong political backing from the cabinet, as was the case with the Big Screen, planning committee members find themselves in a difficult position. Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, being part of the council's ruling coalition, have in recent months come under immense pressure from colleagues to see the sense of approving a variety of regeneration schemes - the British Land Tower in Colmore Row and the former Bank of England building redevelopment in Temple Row, to name but two.
In both cases, regeneration director Clive Dutton has taken time out to attend Planning Committee meetings to stress the importance to the Birmingham economy of approving the schemes.
The ÃÂ£30 million expansion of Edgbaston cricket ground will be the next plan to benefit from cabinet-led pressure. Although some local residents object to what is being proposed, particularly the floodlighting and the scale of a hotel/residential development, planning permission is almost certain to be granted because the supposed importance of test cricket to Birmingham's "global reputation" is being used as a weapon to twist arms.
Much the same happened with the Big Screen. Whitby and co wanted it in place quickly, in time for the 2007 Christmas German market, and planning approval was rushed through as a result.
Council tax payers ended up facing a ÃÂ£1 million bill, but no one feels it appropriate to say sorry.