Community leaders in the Black Country have expressed anger that the area has been hardest-hit by regional funding cuts.
A total of £9 million of the £13.5 million worth of schemes Advantage West Midlands had legally committed to in the Black Country have been scrapped after the agency was told to cut £37.1 million worth of spending next year.
That means two-thirds of schemes in that region are being cut – compared to 38.3 per cent in Birmingham, 52.5 per cent in Coventry and 28.8 per cent of pan-regional initiatives, which affect all of the West Midlands.
Darren Cooper, leader of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, said the area needs the money “more than most” and feels Birmingham is offered preferential treatment.
However, executives at Advantage West Midlands say they are still behind plans to boost the Black Country.
The figures have been heavily affected by the cuts affecting the West Bromwich Town Centre development, which are the largest revealed by AWM.
Mr Cooper said: “They are not focused on where these cuts come and how hard they are hitting communities like Sandwell. With these further cuts in the Advantage West Midlands budget, with the regeneration of our premium town we are going to end up with a situation where half of the town is done and half isn’t and that is very disappointing.
“This is why we have been working very closely with leaders of other Black Country councils like Walsall, Wolverhampton and Dudley to have a Local Enterprise Partnership for the Black Country because quite often the perception here is that we are second best to Birmingham.
“I would argue that Sandwell needs this money more than most.”
Tim Gebbels, corporate director for strategy and skills at AWM, said the agency was still investing heavily in the Black Country, with Sandwell College and the i54 development in Wolverhampton on the ring-fenced list.
He said: “The single biggest project in the Black Country is West Bromwich Town Centre. It didn’t meet the criteria because it wasn’t deliverable within the timeframe and didn’t reach the highest possible return.
“If you took out that one project then the Black Country hasn’t been particularly hardly hit at all.
“We have worked extremely hard to make sure that some elements of that project could go ahead.”
Jon Andrew, managing director of Stoford, which is carrying out the development work in the town centre, said it remained committed to the plans despite the funding cut.
He said: “Along with many regeneration projects in the region, the All Saints scheme has obviously faced many challenges as a result of market conditions over the last two years.
“The necessary cuts in funding from AWM was one of these challenges.
“We have remained committed to the project and worked closely with AWM through this year to restructure the funding.
“With the continued support and commitment from AWM, work has started on site and the new regional business centre for BT will be completed in August 2011.”
Mr Gebbels said the investment in i54 was evidence of AWM’s commitment to the Black Country, and fitted in with the agency’s commitment to spending on initiatives with the biggest return for the local economy.
US engineering group Moog has already signed up ot move to the park and it is understood talks are taking place with another potential private sector occupier.
He said: “We did that because we understand how important i54 is for the Black Country. It is a really important site for future growth.
“We have now secured the first tenant onto that site with potential of another.”