The West Midlands has lost out on valuable investment and jobs because of the Government’s decision to abolish regional economic agencies, Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna has claimed.
But a Labour government would support the new local enterprise partnerships set up by the Coalition rather than trying to bring the old agencies, back, he said.
Labour’s business spokesman was addressing a meeting of business leaders and party activists at Aston Business School, in Birmingham.
He said a Labour government would adopt a “one-nation” industrial strategy - following party leader Ed Miliband’s conference speech earlier this year, where Mr Miliband adopted the “one nation” slogan traditionally associated with moderate Conservatives.
Mr Umunna highlighted the Coalition government’s decision to abolish Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency set up by Labour to support the regional economy.
Ministers had created new bodies to replace it, called Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), which cover smaller areas.
But Mr Umunna said: “Let’s consider the local impact of this. For every £1 of government investment, through Advantage West Midlands it leveraged in eight.
“Now, I understand the Greater Birmingham Local Enterprise Partnership is starting to find its feet. But time has been lost. Uncertainty has been created. Investment that might have happened hasn’t.
“And people who might have been working have been unemployed – hurting family finances, costing the public finances, eroding workplace skills and damaging self esteem.”
However, a Labour government would help Local Enterprise Partnerships succeed rather than introducing a new agency, he said.
“When LEPs were introduced we warned Ministers that they were holding them back by not ensuring they had the powers and resources to get going straight away, support businesses, make a real difference and be responsive to local economic circumstances. We will work to improve LEPs not abolish them if elected.”
Mr Umunna said Labour would adopt a “one national industrial strategy” designed to broaden the productive base of the economy so that it was less vulnerable to the fortunes of the housing and financial services sectors.
He said: “We don’t want to kill the financial services goose but we do want it to lay much better eggs for the UK economy by helping fund the development of businesses in other sectors and across all regions.”
He was speaking to a meeting of the West Midlands Labour Finance and Industry Group, which was set up by Labour to promote dialogue between the party and industry.