The Chancellor's Budget was a case of jam tomorrow as he ignored the spiralling energy costs and pensions deficits affecting British industry, it was claimed yesterday.
Gordon Brown's statement contained little to boost the competitiveness of UK companies in the short term, business leaders in Birmingham said.
Increasing education spending and the expansion of the research and development tax credit by doubling - from 250 to 500 employees - the size of companies eligible for higher credit, were welcomed.
But a panel of business people and experts brought together by Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry described it as a Budget for the future rather than the present.
Ian Smith, chief executive of EEF West Midlands, said the Budget did little to help the region's beleaguered manufacturing industry, and the Chancellor had instead tinkered around the edges.
He said: "There may be some jam tomorrow with the emphasis on investment in science, innovation and enterprise. But there is very little today.
"This Budget will have had little relevance for most manufacturing businesses in the region.
"There were genuinely optimistic signs for manufacturers on the back of a pick up in domestic growth and continued growth in exports at the start of this year.
"Since then energy prices and the need to fund pensions have continued to exert an ever tighter squeeze on margins.
"There was nothing on pensions, nothing to tackle high energy costs and no reduction in the tax burden. On the big issues facing business, he was silent."
BCI policy adviser James Cooper said the feeling among a panel of firms was that the Chancellor had done little to improve the competitiveness of British companies.
"There was a lot of encouragement for the future with investment in science, innovation and enterprise. But they felt expanded tax credits for research and development would have impact on only a small number of companies.
"There was widespread disappointment in the lack of encouragement for companies today, especially no new moves to reduce the regulatory burden or to tackle the pension crisis."
Panel member Steve Brittan, director of BSA Tools, said: "There is no real incentive for business investment but at least we didn't get hammered.
"We were looking for incentives to improve processes through investment new machinery and techniques so that we can meet the challenges from India and China head on.
"There was nothing for companies who want to invest in the latest technology."
Ian Cochrane, tax senior manager at KPMG, felt the Chancellor was "high on rhetoric but offered little substance for business".
He added: "We were looking for increases in capital allowances and reductions in corporate taxes to step up Britain's global competitiveness now.
"But they were not forthcoming although there were some very encouraging elements for the future."
The Forum of Private Business, which represents 20,000 small and medium-sized businesses across the UK, said the Chancellor had delivered a lacklustre Budget which did little to address the urgent needs of smaller businesses.
The FPB's chief executive Nick Goulding said: "There will be widespread scepticism that the promises to cut red tape - about which our members constantly complain - will bear fruit.
"While Gordon Brown was predictably upbeat about the economy, he failed to point out that since 2000, any growth in employment has been fuelled entirely by the growth in the public sector as private sector jobs have been squeezed out and the red tape burden has spiralled."
The Institute of Directors regretted that the Chancellor chose to adjust a range of reliefs, schemes and exemptions, when a simple cut in the main rate of corporation tax would have been more beneficial.
While welcoming the efficiency savings announced in the Budget, the IoD remained concerned the Chancellor had done nothing significant to reverse the growth in tax and spend seen over recent years.
John James, chairman of the IoD in the West Midlands, said: "The competitive advantages the UK once enjoyed with a 30 per cent rate of corporation tax have been eroded away.
"We need to reduce the rate of corporation tax in order to boost our competitiveness."
Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, said the Chancellor should have done more to stem the loss of manufacturing jobs.
"It is right to look to the future but manufacturing job losses remain the ticking time bomb of the UK economy. Of course it is right to invest in education but we needed a more robust response to put in place a strong manufacturing strategy now."
Derek Simpson, general secretary of Amicus, said: "A million well paid skilled jobs have been sacrificed on the alter of flexibility since 1997.
"The Chancellor's suggestion that he intends to go further with this will not be well received in industrial areas of the country where good jobs are at a premium.
"We would have welcomed action to protect industry from energy price increases."
Midlands TUC regional secretary Roger McKenzie was more positive.
He said: "This was a confident Chancellor, taking justifiable pride in sustained growth and record investment in public services.
"While today was a Budget for stability not a giveaway, the Chancellor has targeted his resources well. We particularly welcome the boost to childcare and the child tax credit; investment in schools, class sizes, skills and further education; and extra incentives for research and development.
"But we are concerned at the scale of the efficiency targets. We do not believe these can be met without making real cuts in public services."
The CBI welcomed individual business-friendly steps in the Budget, but said the package fell short of the boost for UK competitiveness that business was seeking.
Director-general Sir Digby Jones said: "The Chancellor slapped himself on the back but did little to give a helping hand to those hard-pressed businesses who are currently under the cosh.
"Steps to reduce red tape, expand R&D tax credits and boost UK Trade & Investment have our wholehearted support.
"But business will be disappointed that the opportunity truly to improve UK competitiveness has been lost.
"UK firms have watched while other countries have reduced business taxes to help their companies compete in this era of globalisation. Yet the UK continues to do the opposite.
"It is vital that the Chancellor reins back on public sector expansion and the promised cuts are welcome. But simply redistributing money within a spiralling Budget is not enough."